The C Word

I have been gone a while- not updating my blogs or anything like that. I don’t like to dwell on negative things, so I will just zip through this information; I have cancer. I am in chemotherapy. I am getting good care in Panama. I have support from friends and family. I am coping.

On to better things…

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I think I’ve figured out why…

I have always felt weird. Out of place. Like I don’t belong. This is likely a product of the fact that I am bipolar and prone to depression episodes… blah blah blah, but the result doesn’t change. I always feel that disconnect. It is slightly Asperger-y. When I am around people my age, my ethnicity, my nationality, I find that everyone is going in a vastly different path than me. Not better or worse, just different. I have a very unorthodox life – I am child free by choice, an atheist, a nerd, a writer, an expat and my political views are my own and suit no party I know of. This usually limits coffee time chat to surface topics of movies, music and books. If I had one of the things listed there, it would make being social difficult. With the entire list… well, I make friends as easily as the cast of Lost made ice.

So, that weird disconnect pushes even further with me. I don’t understand most “normal” rituals. I grew up in a weird way and spent years in group homes. I look at rituals like weddings and have no idea why or how. I had a wedding with the dress and Hawaii and the pictures on the beach. It was lovely, but it didn’t change anything. We did it for the experience. It was worth it for that, but why do people go through so much trouble… basically. I don’t understand buying diamonds, or wearing white or having babies or 2 for 1 drink night at Applebee’s. I don’t understand why people water their lawns when water is so scarce. Why do people even have lawns? Aren’t there better things to do than tend to a non-productive patch of grass that no one walks on? And why $50,000 cars? Why baggy jeans? Why student loans that put you in debt for the rest of your life? Why bacon sundaes at Denny’s?

(Note: I wrote this draft, a friend read it and gave me a Denny’s Bacon Sundae. I am now a believer!)

On the other hand, I understand vacations and traveling and collecting mostly useless things like art and antiques. I get those things because they inspire and enrich the mind, in my opinion, instead of ONLY being expensive or simply a misguided idea. Of course, this is all my myopic opinion and means very little in the grand scheme of things. Maybe a wedding inspires someone…. no, it doesn’t. It is something people were told they have to have in order to be “official” about love. I’m being negative and don’t mean to be. Back to disconnect…

So, I am a weirdo. Bonafide.

Enter- moving to Panama. Suddenly all my weirdness, my awkwardness, my issues with communication, my day dreamy habits, my DISCONNECT all have a reason. I’m a foreigner. People kind of expect it. They expect me to fumble over words, to not know how a certain everyday thing works, to not understand the rituals, to have a terrible sense of direction, to be overly polite to the point of embarrassing to make up for it because I feel guilty for not understanding. They expect it. They treat it with kindness and give me a little more time to figure it all out. They explain it to me with compassion rather than scowl at me with a “How can you not know that?” look. On one hand, I can memorize entire Shakespearian plays, solve equations, ramble on about physics and nerd crap till the end of time, but I didn’t know what flannel was until this morning. (See, in Panama I don’t need to know what flannel is because ANYONE WEARING IT IS A PSYCHOPATH.)

I think I’ve figured out why expat life feels comfortable for me. It’s this. The thing. The vaina. (Pana-Spanish for “The thing”)

So, maybe I should start to embrace my weirdness and start to connect a little.

Yeah, good idea.

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Shameless Self Promotion Time (Sorry): My apartment is for rent!

I have a 2 bedroom, 3 bath apartment for rent on Via Argentina, a very hip and lively street with lots of restaurants and things to do. It is across the street from Farmacia Arrocha and you can walk to most of the things you need. Taxis are plentiful in the area too. The apartment is being upgraded with new air conditioners, new cabinets and lots of good things. Apartment comes unfurnished but we can furnish it and negotiate a cost. The apartment is very comfortable and is in a one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city. A very short walk takes you to a nice little park and there are plenty of spaces to walk your dog. Well behaved dogs are welcome (one only please) and the apartment is strictly no smoking inside the apartment. If you are coming in from outside the country and are not familiar with Panama, I would be glad to help you also. We are happy to help with whatever you might need.

If interested, email me at   clockworkgypsy@gmail.com

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Images Of Panama Cultural Fesitivals

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It’s all happening…!

     Yesterday I watched my bookshelves, desk and sofa carried out of the house by the total strangers who bought it off of Craigslist. A large red suitcase is sitting smack in the center of my living room, half full of things I want to take with me to Panama. It is mostly clothes because I haven’t had the heart to try to see if my art supplies will fit in there and still give me room for a few changes of clothes. I have to pack my life into two suitcases and a carry-on. I shouldn’t say “have to” but instead I should say “GET to”. There is a beautiful kind of rebirth to all this disrobing of my suburban life of the last four years. All the stuff I have collected going out the door. The stuff just walking out and the rest of it I get to choose what are the truly important parts of my life and what can simply be parted with.

     My passport is being renewed. I did the fingerprinting thing today (to apply for residency in Panama, you need a fingerprint FBI report and you can do that at a UPS office) and our landlord is showing the house to potential renters since we are moving out in less than a month. Now, it all feels very real and approaching very, very soon. I am happy about this, though admittedly apprehensive. No matter how adventurous anyone is, tossing your whole life in two suitcases and not having much of a plan after that is a little nerve fraying. And there is so much to do that it all seems a bit overwhelming. Sell everything. Cancel the electric, the cable, the phones… oh God, I can’t take all my books! Now THAT is painful. 

     The next year is going to be a life changing experience. Moving to another country… even though I lived there before, it all seems very different now, and I feel a bit unprepared because of my four years of cushy (but depressing) life in the American burbs. What Spanish I knew, I have forgotten (and I have had two brain surgeries since then, and it has been hard to remember words in English sometimes, much less Spanish.) I have so much to learn and so many ways to change. It is exciting and yet scary at once. The good kind of scary. 

     Aside from the international move, I have a big trip planned for next Spring. I’ll talk about that in another post. But, it’s a big three month long trip to Europe, so a lot is going on for me in the next year. Now I just need to pack my things and try to breathe.

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Igua, playing his pipe on the island of Ustupu, San Blas, Panama

Igua, playing his pipe on the island of Ustupu, San Blas, Panama

I spent two weeks on the island of Ustupu, a part of the San Blas Islands tourists rarely see.

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Panama: Pros & Cons In My Opinion

This is all just my opinion, but here is a basic run down on what I consider the good and the bad about living in Panama. Please note that my home is in Panama City and so my opinions are based around living in the city.

PRO: Affordable and quality medical care. 

CON: The heat and humidity. For me, it is uncomfortably hot and humid. 

PRO: Friendly people. I have found it fairly easy to make friends in both the Panamanian and the expat community.

CON: Traffic. In the city, traffic is a nightmare.

PRO: Plenty to do. I rarely get bored in Panama. There is always something to do. Festivals, lectures, classes, parties, good restaurants, beautiful things to see. Since costs are relatively low, I can afford to actually go out and do things.

CON: Hot garbage. Seriously. The trash pick-up service in the city is severely lacking and dumpsters get overflowing with trash that sits in the heat and makes a stench. If you are considering living in Panama City, this is likely something you will see in most neighborhoods. 

PRO: Affordable living costs. Panama is no longer “cheap” but housing and living costs are quite lower than most places I have lived in the US, UK and Western Europe. 

CON: The many predatory real estate scams that are present in the Panama real estate market. Panama is moving away from it’s old west anything goes reputation of ten years ago, but you still have to navigate a pretty risky landscape of fraud and con-artists. If you are savvy, you can do it, but you must be very careful.

PRO: Panama, despite it’s flaws (the US certainly has it’s fair share of problems too) always feels like home. It is a fairly easy jump for a new expat. The currency is the US dollar, the expat community is large and friendly, the US is a short flight away and as an American you’re never really that far from something familiar. It is easy expatriation. 

CON: Same as above. The Americanization can be seen as both pro and con. 

PRO: The beauty. Panama is a genuinely beautiful country with a rich history and culture. It is difficult to not be charmed by it. 


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A Me Post. Some old travel photos.

A Me Post. Some old travel photos.

Just some old travel photos because reasons.

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