Well….our dream of retiring and living part-time in Panama has finally come true. The ” life plan” actually began in the early 2000’s with visits to several central American countries with the thought of eventually living there.
We fell in love with the country, and the people of Panama in 2006. In 2007, we had a house built in a sub-division near the town of Las Tablas, on the Azuero peninsula, about 15 minutes from the ocean. Here’s a photo of our house, and a happy Jimmy, when we took occupancy in 2008:
For a while, we nicknamed the area “Bullhead South” due to the number of former residents of the Bullhead City/Laughlin area who planned to live here, at least part time, including our neighbor Lupe Abrego. She and her family originally lived in the three houses across the street, and we all knew each other from working at Harrah’s and the the-then Flamingo. Another former “Bullheadian” lives around the corner, another couple built and later sold a house two blocks away, and a few friends originally bought lots here. Many of you may know Lupe’s daughters: Mayling (and Kevin) McGowen, and Lariza (and Scott) Bayliss.
We wanted to do things the right way when we finally retired and moved to Panama. Therefore, we started the long, arduous, and expensive process of becoming dual citizens. This included obtaining a “Pensionado” (or Jubilado) status (with formidable legal hoops), then obtaining our Cedula and finally a Panamanian driver’s license. We began the process in 2015 and finally picked up the last official id card on July 30, 2018.
We are now residents of both Panama and the US. We retained our US passports, but now can breeze through Panamanian Customs as citizens of that country too.
And finally, the last piece to fall into place was to obtain a permanent Panamanian phone number. It’s a lot less expensive than in the US. I simply bought a sim card and prepaid package with minutes, texting and data for $15/month, and voila! I’m using my regular Samsung Note 5 and will be able to switch back to my AT &T number upon our return to the US. We also activated Jim’s US phone number internationally through AT&T. My only issue that is if we miss a Panamanian call, the caller leaves a message….in Spanish. We are both concentrating on learning the language, but it’s an uphill climb.
After five nights in Panama City, we asked our friend and driver, Luis, to take us to Coronado, which is about an hour outside of Panama City. We stayed at an apartment right on the beach for two nights.
Coronado has become quite an ex-pat community and we’d never spent any time there. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay, but determined that it’s not someplace we’d like to live. We chose Panama in part because of the charm of the people, and the Panamanian lifestyle. Coronado is similar to San Diego, and in my opinion, has lost the charm.
We leased a Hyundai Tucson in Coronado for a month, with the thought that maybe we’d buy it, or if we don’t like it, we can lease a different one next month. We still haven’t finalized our decision yet (more on that later). We left Coronado on a sunshiny Monday morning and drove the three hours to our paradise-on-earth. Our wonderful neighbor, Lupe, had arranged for pest control, service on our air conditioner and cleaning, prior to our arrival. We are very, very lucky to have such a great neighbor and friend. The day we arrived, of course, we spend settling in, going to the grocery store, hanging the hammocks, etc.
Jim celebrated his birthday the second night we were in Las Tablas. We celebrated the day by taking Lupe out to dinner with us at the Presidential Hotel downtown Las Tablas. No pie, but great margaritas!
Since the house was built in 2007/2008 and only occupied for a week or two every year, there are many things that needed to be fixed and/or replaced (like the refrigerator). We also have been planning to build a block wall with decorative wrought iron around the backyard and eventually create an “outdoor” room and kitchen. Stay tuned for the next blog posts about our re-model.