These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: Volume 2

El Valle de Anton –

There is something almost mystical about “El Valle”. As you round winding roads, white knuckling turns and come upon this open valley, it feels like a hidden paradise. The market on Sunday Mornings is my favorite time to go. I love hiking up to the painted rock and dipping into the waterfall on the way down.

Because… ceviche! Nothing is better than that on a hot day, which is almost every day here.

Thunder & Lightning
Panama puts on spectacular thunder and lightning shows during rain season. If I am quiet and don’t multi-task, it is meditative.

La Praline Chocolatier
On Via Porras there is a new boutique chocolate shop. It is amaaaaaaazing.

 I have professed my love for Theater Guild of Ancon before and here it is again in the favorites list. This is where I met most of my friends and established a new life.

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I’m in Panama!

After a hellish flight (I had seizures on the plane) I am back in Panama and finally had a night of sleep. To make a long story short – or maybe to just make a long story, here is a quick run down of what is going on with me:

– I have a rare and treatment resistant form of Epilepsy and I have had it since age eleven. This influences almost all decisions I make.
– I used to live in Panama but moved back to the US because of family issues.
– I have been planning to move back to Panama for several months.
– Two weeks ago (in the middle of my move) I discovered a medication that works for my seizures. My plans were tossed around quite a bit because the medication is not available in Panama.
– I planned to stay in California for medication reasons, or at least in the US.
– Then I realized I would be giving up my happiness, so I stuck everything in storage and hopped on a plane.
– Now I am in Panama without the medication and trying to figure out a way to either get the medication here or cope without it.

Note: Epilepsy medication is easily available in Panama, but what I have is rare and complicated.

So, now my belongings are in a storage shed in California. I am in Panama with nothing but a carry on suitcase (I pack hella light) and a loosely woven plan.

For now, I am going to focus on fixing up my house here in Panama, something that needs to be done whether I stay in Panama or not, and focus on being happy. I’ll figure the rest out day by day. I do really enjoy not having “belongings” now (I might liquidate what I have in storage later) as I can go where I want and do what I want.

My dream life is to live in Panama most of the year and one to three months of each year, travel. Financially I can do that if I live in Panama. I really want to stay.

From my balcony

Categories: Expat Interest, Personal, Travel | 2 Comments

Medical Care In Panama

I get asked about medical care in Panama often. There is a very xenophobic idea that I encounter often in the USA that the only decent medical care is found in the USA or ‘those expensive white people countries.’ I think they mean France and Germany but I don’t speak fluent stupid so I’m just guessing. I have rather complicated health problems myself. I have very severe epilepsy. That’s the big one. More common problems I have dealt with are high blood pressure, chronic ear infections (diving, yay!) and some pretty standard dermatology issues.

I have a very good general practitioner in Panama City. She is very attentive, takes her time with the patient and I prefer her to any doctor I have ever had in the US. She does not toss unneeded pills in my direction as has been my experience with many US doctors. Pills are a last resort, not a first with her. I greatly appreciate that. I see a neurologist when needed and my GP manages my epilepsy medication in tandem with my neurologist. I also have frequent appointments with a physical therapist to manage the damage seizures do to my body. My epilepsy is treatment resistant so even with medication, I still have frequent seizures. That would be the case regardless of where I live in the world. My doctor visits cost me $18. (It is a modest clinic, not a big fancy hospital, but I am very happy with the care I get there.) My prescription medications are all about 30% less than what I pay in the US except my epilepsy meds which are a bit more.

In 2006 I had an ear infection so severe that I was hospitalized. When I was finally well enough to go home, my ear/nose/throat specialist gave me his cell number and drove me home so he could learn the route to my house in case he needed to make a house call. And I puked in his car.

I have seen a psychiatrist in Panama City and found the experience pretty much the same as seeing a ‘shrink’ in the US. Same office, same meds, same methods. (I suffer from depression and PTSD) My appointments were $40 for an hour long session.

I had surgery for a hernia behind my navel two years ago in Panama City. I was treated at a small clinic and my experience was a very good one. I had three doctors attend me and two spoke English. I felt very confident about their skills and no more scared than I would be in an American hospital. The bill for the surgery, anesthesia, etc was $1400.

Last year I had full blood panels and all around tests done (blood, pee, poo, the works) and this was done in a big fancy hospital (Hospital San Fernando). I usually fear blood tests because I have weird veins and nurses tend to poke me multiple times and I end up feeling like a sprinkler. The nurse who drew my blood was a one hit wonder. She nailed it right from the start, no pain, no weirdness. EKG – $40. Blood, poo, pee tests complete set – $350

I do not have medical insurance in Panama (because I move back and forth) so these costs are reflective of having no insurance.

I have been more than impressed with the quality of medical care in Panama City. I cannot speak for other parts of Panama as I have not seen a doctor anywhere else.

In case you are wondering about dental- same thing. Good quality care and very affordable compared to the US, even if you have insurance in the US. I MUCH prefer my doctors in Panama to the ones I have seen in the US. In the States, I find doctors are often uninterested, not available, don’t listen and rely too heavily on drugs that are not needed (got thin eyelashes? take THIS! Sure, your eyes will turn yellow but you’ll have thicker, fuller lashes!) No, I don’t need four different anti-depressants plus sleeping pills, plus social anxiety pills plus restless leg syndrome pills. What I need is a doctor who makes realistic diagnosis and advises me without a corporate lawyer involved.



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Hospital San Fernando in Panama City



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What Does The Fox Say? The Panama Version

The popular Norwegian “What Does The Fox Say” parody gets a Panama version that features a couple of my Panama based friends – the guy singing is Amit- who is the closest thing I have to a little brother. His adorable wife Elena is seen in a mouse costume. There is too much cuteness to digest. Pure love for these people 🙂

Here is the original in case you live under a rock (like I did until an hour ago) (Yes it is stupid. That’s the point.)

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This is all I am taking with me.

This is all I am taking with me.

My actual belongings. Yes, I am 36 and I dress like a 19 year old. I took less than this with me the first time. I lived out of a suitcase for four years and it was the best thing ever. I might also re-pack several board games that you cannot get in Panama easily (like Lords Of Waterdeep… geek stuff) to minimize the bulk and take them for plenty of nerdy game nights with friends. It’s amazing how many aspects of life can be digitized. Photo albums are no longer needed. Book collections can go on an e-reader. Maps, guidebooks, language software… all in a tiny instrument.

Categories: Expat Interest, Personal | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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