Saturday, June 30, 2012


P is for Power.  Or the lack of it.  What will we do in Panama when there are outages here and there, and there isn’t the service there like there is here?  Patience, another “P”. 

Last night we had the warning of a storm coming from the west.  The wind started in Illinois about twelve hours before getting to our lake house in Bumpass, Virginia.  Ray thought it was raining and hard!  There wasn’t any rain (I could barely hear it as usual) when he looked outside but just a howling wind.  A constant wind.  Eerie and scary.  Then the lights flickered on and off, the tv went off and on.  We had just finished a few of the IL seminars on the computer.  The internet went out.  At 10:30pm, the electricity went out.  I was immediately hot and sweaty.  We called it a night and went to bed to watch the crazy lightning from bed.   In our cove that we have here at Lake Anna, we can walk across it to get to our neighbors dock.  Their house is “across the water up on a hill”.  We saw a fire engine and what looked like an ambulance pull up in front of their house.  Ray went onto the screened-in porch to listen to the rain and wind (we finally got the rain and heavy downpours).  He heard a thunderous explosion and today realizes it was a roof falling onto another house “across the water”.  Lightning had struck the roof of the, mostly brick, three story home.  The owner’s live in this house year round.  We walked down to the water and looked up the hill with the house engulfed in flames.  The owners tried putting a small fire out in their kitchen with a fire extinguisher.  Then realized more of the house was on fire, so they grabbed their pets and themselves, jumped in the car and tried getting the fire department on the phone.  They had to then drive three miles to the nearest fire station to tell them about the fire.  In the meantime, neighbors were calling the fire in and getting through the lines finally.  They were telling the fireman “just to get to this road and you will see the fire”!  They had to truck water in.  They set pools up to pump the water out.  The lake isn’t close enough to pump water out of it.  The second story porch collapsed on a fireman (he had to be dug out by a neighbor that had a forklift on his tractor).  He was alert, conscious and airlifted to the hospital.  The house was down in thirty minutes.  The owners have nothing. 
The house on the right (on the hill) is the one right across the cove from our house.  It is where we watched the fire destroy their neighbors house.  
P is for Prayers.  And lots of them for my neighbors and also all the people in Colorado fighting those fires.  This is "just" one house that I saw burn down to the ground in less than thirty minutes.  I cannot imagine the forest fires out west.
Back to Power.  We didn't have electricity for nine hours, and I was "dying".  I was anxious.  Just not knowing what my house in Stafford was looking like (neighbors will call me if there is trouble ever) or if there was electricity.  The yard at this house was in shambles with scattered limbs and debris.  The gutters were a mess.  The other owners of this house aren't here, so Ray and I spent the hot and humid morning walking the neighborhood surveying the damage in our yard as well as other yards on other streets.  Then we had to clean up.

Lake Anna Nuclear Power Plant.  Lake Anna was created in the 1970's to provide a reservoir of water coolant for the power plant.  Too bad we can't keep power up and running during the bad storms.
P is for Patience.  I tell myself this everyday now.

Friday, June 29, 2012


What a week of fluctuations and constants. For the fluctuations, at the start of the week, the weather here was sunny with low humidity and warm temperatures, but they were bearable (high 80's). Today being Friday, we are expecting the temperature to hit 100 degrees with heat index of 105-115 degrees. Records may be broken. Gas prices are going down, down, down. Today, a gallon of regular gas in $3.14 in my area and $2.95 about twenty minutes south. Earlier in the week, we were seeing $3.25 for regular gas. The stock market as usual is bouncing around. Will Spanish banks be helped out by the EU? At the start of the week, it didn't look likely, and the market was UGLY. Today, it is reported that they will get help. And it is up just about 2% for the day! Obama's health reform was a huge deal this week. Is it Constitutional or not? At the time of the vote, the President saw four television screens simultaneously. Two showed that healthcare reform was upheld and two that showed it was knocked down. For now, healthcare reform is a go. But there's the possibility of an appeal, and let's not forget November. Ups and downs.
And where nothing seemed to really get done in my life this week (Ray did the laundry--yay), I felt busy. The letter "P" was the constant for the week.
*P is for Panama Power Point Presentation. Ray and I have been sitting down with our International Living Panama: Lifestyle and Opportunity Conference Power Point that we ordered and downloaded (we listen to this past April's four day conference seminar to seminar, and we watch it slide to slide). Some questions have been answered, some answers were given to questions we found we already knew, and some things still go un-answered. We decided to set forth and make contact through email with an attorney through IL. She responded quickly to my questions. That's a plus! Our hope is to move to Panama and start working with an attorney to obtain a Pensionado Visa. It seems new laws are being added left and right in Panama (two laws recently went into effect--so the April IL Conference is now a bit "dated" on the visas gringos can obtain.) Don Winner, of, reported yesterday (and this attorney translated and emailed this new law to me) that there is now Permanent Residency for Nationals of Countries Friendly to Panama. This may be the way we obtain a Residency Visa. And in May, the government created a new category of Permanent Residency allowing individuals to start a business or obtain a work permit (as long as they are from an approved country). With all that is happening, by the time we get there, who knows what will have changed or stayed the same for that matter.
*P is for Photos being organized and developed this week. Ray asked me why I am getting pictures of our Alaskan vacation developed at Costco. What do others do with all the digital pictures they have? I have mine on an external hard drive. I keep mine on CD's that are kept close to my bed so that I can grab them fast if there is a fire (!). And I also take so many pictures from my recent vacations and either create an album through Shutterfly, or I buy a small photo album for that destination of pictures. I like looking at albums. I will keep them at the lake house until I can slowly bring them to Panama. 
*P is for Pinterest. What I do know is that this past week I added Pinterest to my life. (My sister and daughter have been wondering why I wasn't sucked into this sooner! I've been too busy learning how to blog! And put pictures in photo albums. Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. According to, it lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. The boards that are missing and will soon be added will be "Panama Places to Go" or "All Things Panama" or even "What I want for my Panamanian House".
This is the picture I just added to my board "All Things Panama".   Second largest swimming pool in the world!  A must go to and see!

*P is for Posts. A blog is, according to Wikipedia, a discussion or information site published online that consists of discrete entries (called posts). Like this post all about P's. Or the posts I keep up with that tell me the ups and downs of living in Panama, trying to build a house in Panama, owning a restuarant in Panama, how to make calls and Skype from Panama, and so much more.
*P is for Politics. I will leave this one alone. But it certainly is a busy time for America.
And now I realize, while I did nothing last week, I sure did feel busy too!

Friday, June 22, 2012


I am going to sound like my mom did when she would talk about the new man in her life (and no, my family didn't really like him, but he made her happy and that was what mattered most)—“he reads the New York Times front to back everyday”.  I guess she wanted my family and I to think he was a well read man.  We just thought he was lazy and selfish because he would wake up at around ten, drive somewhere to buy the paper (he didn't subscribe so this was one way he could get away from mom while she cleaned or ran errands for the two of them) and then spend two hours reading.  Then they would go have some fun together.  How I am going to sound like her is that  I read the paper front to back every morning except on the weekends when at the lake house.  Not the NY Times though.  I subscribe to the local paper. I like reading about things going on in my neighborhood and also current worldly events. 
All of the above brings me to what I read the other day.   Dr. Delise Dickard wants me to make the most of my retirement.  She doesn't want me to feel lost without the demands of a job.  I can so see this happening!  She wants me to find passion.  So now I need to keep a list of what I am passionate about (so far the list would have reading, gardening, keeping journals, educating/researching,  traveling—at the top of the list for sure!, and…)
She wants me to “live with gusto”.  I envision life in Panama as being full of gusto for this gringo.  Everyday will be a challenge at first.  Maybe I will wake up and read the paper (online) for two hours, I hope to tinker in the yard, I will continue my blog, I want to travel the country at first to see all that there is in Panama and Costa Rica, and perhaps I could educate some Panamanians on oral hygiene (or even expats for that matter)?  I would love to start an exercise routine (ROUTINE is the key word here).  But could I be passionate about exercise J 
I am supposed to “explore new territory”.   This would go along with the fact that I am in a new country, for Pete’s Sake, and that I would explore my surrounding cities.  Oh, I would first explore the shopping malls. 
And while creating my bucket list, I am to “think creatively”.  I thought retiring to Panama was pretty creative.  
And finally, fun should be found in unlikely places.  Fun I expect to be found with the new friends I will have made in Panama,  laughing at the daily stresses/challenges Ray and I encounter just living in this new country instead of grinding my teeth (I will bring my nightguard as a just in case), driving around honking my horn like everyone supposedly does there (once I go through the grueling process of getting a drivers license), and just waking up every morning not having a particular care in the world except for when I should Skype Carly and my family and what I will have for breakfast that day.
Dr.  Dickard states that if I find fun in my retirement years, I will find purpose.  I should live each day so that I can just retire at night to the sound of the tv and resting at night only for the purpose of gaining energy for the next days discoveries.  So retiring to Panama seems passionate and purposeful to me!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

ALASKAN VACATION ("No Mom, you came to them")

What a spectacular place Alaska is!  And for that matter I loved everything I saw and everywhere I visited in Seattle for the two days we were there before getting onto the Star Princess Cruise Ship.  Our home away from home for a week.  But first--if you ever get the chance to go to Seattle, DO THE UNDERGROUND TOUR!  Amazing how they lived so many years ago!
Now as far as Alaska goes, how could I be so many miles away in such a different place from PANAMA (!) and still be realizing that "I think I can, I think I can" (make the move to a foreign place/a "third world country").
 First, I had to practice extreme patience.  It isn't easy being on a cruise ship with 2,500 other people for a week (I am not complaining since this is a once in a lifetime trip for me).  All the other passengers seemed to be hungry at the same time, want the "free" pizza and ice cream at the same time, went up the elevators at the same time (I did take the steps many times though.) and many of them didn't get that spatial concept.  Leave me some room to breathe, please.
 Trying to find patience being in this car with the smelly, rude children playing "gas" games while their parents did no parenting for three hours.  
 Second, I had to realize that not everyone was speaking my language.  My daughter pointed out to me several times that many of the other passengers didn't necessarily get my jokes or humor (yes, I strike up conversations with strangers or make small talk while waiting for a show to start or an elevator to show), and it was because they didn't speak my language or "get me".
Third, again pointed out to me by my daughter, while whale watching I made a comment that I just expected the whales to show up.  Sort of like when I have gone out on a snorkeling party boat excursion on another cruise in the Caribbean, let's say--the dolphins and fish would just show up because they were being fed.  I was expecting the whales to show up because I was there to see them.  They were going to come to me.  My daughter told me (and I still get goose bumps when I remember this), "No mom, you showed up".  I went to them--I was in their world.  Not the other way around.  They were doing what they normally do, say migrating, and I was the visitor. (Patience waiting to get the tail end of the whales!)
Patience waiting to get the tail end of the whales!
 Which got me to thinking today about Panama.  I will be in the Panamanians world.  I will be speaking a different language.  They won't "get me".  And I will have to be extremely patient.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


We are now even more committed to traveling to Panama in October.  Not only do we have air travel accomplished and a rental car secured, but we have put a deposit down on a two bedroom condominium in The Solarium Complex Coronado.  Georgina, the owner, has been fantastic!  She is Panamanian and her husband is from Holland.  They live six months in Holland and six months in Panama.  She will be in Panama at the condo. to give us a tour/turn over the keys and has been of tremendous help with any and all of our questions (rental car, realtor advice, locations to travel to...).  She has given me the thumbs up to post the link to her condominium, and I really want to help her out in this way and to spread the word.  It looks gorgeous! … ml#reviews  I am making her my fourth Panamanian friend :)
At the end of the week, we are staying close to the airport at the Marriott Courtyard Metromall (FREE using points which was one of the biggest reasons we chose it).
When I posted my travel plans on the ExpatBlog forum, I did have one response to my post about visiting Panama in October.  The "poster" stated that while I will enjoy my trip to Panama, it is the rainiest month of the year.  Most of the days are going to be dark and overcast.  Sheesh.  Thanks.  BUT then the "poster" did write that this could be a really great thing.  I will see Panama at its worst/rainiest, and if I can live with what we encounter that one week in October, everything else will be great! This is a great way to see the glass as being half full.  And making me realize what months I will travel OUTSIDE of Panama when I get to retiring there!


My daughter, Carly, starts graduate school at The College of William and Mary in one month.  This is the same school where she just completed her undergraduate degree in Sociology and lived in a different dorm for those three years.  This meant that we moved her in and out of dorm housing six times. This year she found an apartment to share with two other friends (which is by the way NOTHING like my first apartment when I was still an undergraduate student at Old Dominion University. It is also so much better than my first condominium I rented the first year I started working!).  And it just hit home about thirty minutes ago that even more of her things (now even some bedroom furniture) were gone.
 There are so many emotions that have gone along with this move. While I am so happy that the apartment is clean, bright and spacious and also elated that her dad and I are able to help her out so much, it is definitely different and even a bit gloomy to see her move out this year.  I know she can return here next summer, but that isn't our hope for her.  Ray and I hope to see her finish school and either move her things back here while she is teaching overseas on a scholarship OR move her to another place near her first teaching job (so either way, we get to move things again next summer).  We sent her to the apartment with living room furniture, dining room furniture (it was my parents furniture that I had moved to our lake house a year ago, so I still have more here in this house--oy vey!) and some of her bedroom furniture.  We are, of course, downsizing with the hopes of not taking anything but suitcases with us to Panama.
We are excited for our future and to see what happens with us next.  And we are even more thrilled for Carly's future, also, but with that comes her growing up more and separation from us more.  So while it was wonderful to see our things get settled into her amazing apartment (which also gives her comfort in her new place to have familiar things), and to see her enthusiasm with her roommate and ready for the next chapter in her life,  it has been a tad bit solemn for me.