Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sharing The Dream Of International Living.......

Once again this year I was asked by International Living to speak at their Fast Track To Panama Conference.  If you don't already know International Living is a large publication that shows people how to make their dream of moving abroad a reality.  This is done through seminars, a magazine, website, books and other material offered up to the public.  With over 400 attendees from the US and Canada we shared our story with many who stopped by our table in between listening to others' speak. International Living videos the whole event which is then given to attendees to have for future reference also.
Sharing Our Story With Over 400 Attendees

The Exhibit Hall was full of others offering up all kinds of services from real estate, insurance brokers, lawyers, doctors and even members of an indigenous Indian tribe selling handicrafts. The crowd was overloaded with great information from speakers with power point presentations which covered all aspects of life in Panama. Attendees really seemed to appreciate the honesty of the expats like myself that are here living the dream. All of us that spoke mentioned the not so perfect parts of life here like water and power problems; spotty trash pickup; the laid-back work ethic of service workers and so much more.  Life isn't perfect anywhere and everyone needs to realize that before jumping in and making the move. But each and every expat speaker also conveyed the message that despite the quirks of Panama we have no regrets and don't plan on moving anytime soon.

 Notice The Power Point Presentation To The Left

Throughout the conference there was a never ending supply of water, coffee and snacks before ending the day with adult beverages and more socializing. A VIP party on Friday night was held at the elegant Waldorf Astoria Hotel.  Alcohol was flowing freely as was an assortment of finger foods while the Rollers Rock & Roll band entertained us. Clyde and I danced the night away with many new friends that we made throughout the event.

Gettin' Tipsy With Friend Jo Anne Burrill....
Who Already Lives In Coronado, Panama
Posing With New Friends At IL Cocktail Party

Also at the same time Panama City was in the national news regarding the famous Summit Of The Americas.  Leaders from all over the world converged here to discuss worldly matters causing the need for maximum security throughout the city. Major highways, streets and bridges were blocked off during the Summit with a stronger than usual police presence everywhere.  Cavalcades of limo's whizzed by the hotel surrounded by sirens screaming from police cars that encircled the entourage.  Normal traffic was no where to be seen as the city resembled a ghost town.

Some unknown dignitaries also stayed at our hotel as we noticed the occasional pack of secret service agents walking by donned in dark suits.  Certain elevators were off limits to us as they were for held for world leaders who were privately whisked away from lurking crowds.

We made our way home late last night after sipping cocktails at a poolside party before leaving the hotel. A huge thanks to the staff of International Living for hosting such a fun, informative event and allowing me once again to be a part of it.  Never did I dream that someday I'd be speaking in front of crowds of people, perched on the edge of their seat wanting to hear what I had to say. It's been a honor to share our story as both a writer and speaker for International Living throughout the past four years. And to think it all started here through this blog and the great following that it's developed.  I've really come to believe the saying that there really are no strangers out there, just friends that haven't yet met. Here's to more international adventures of living the dream in Panama......along the gringo trail.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

One Of The Seven Wonders.........

No matter how many times we see the Panama Canal we're still captivated by this modern marvel of engineering.  Just imagine coming up with the idea of cutting through the entire country of Panama, building an artificial lake, and creating a set of locks to move a ship from one ocean to another.  The American Society of Civil Engineers named the Panama Canal one of the seven wonders of the modern world making it a "must see" for everyone that visits the isthmus of Panama.

We recently had the opportunity again to show some new friends around Panama City, with our first stop being the canal. Making our way there by 9am on a Monday morning, the crowds were minimal and we had great views of three ships making the transit. If you recall it was last year sometime that Clyde and I had the opportunity to transit the canal ourselves on a 42-foot catamaran with two Australian couples that found us through this blog. See link below for full story of our adventure on the high seas!

The following are photos we took recently on our latest journey to the canal and other parts of the megalopolis known as Panama City, Panama. Come along with us through photos that tell the whole story.....along the gringo trail.

Warren and Colleen Visiting From Canada

A Ship Entering A Lock
Two Ships Going Into Parallel Locks

A Close-Up Of A Mule (train used to guide ships through locks) And Lock Gate

A Critter Spotted On The Hilltop
Perhaps.....A Capybara?

View From Ancon Hill

Another View of Panama City

Casco Viejo - The Old Part Of The City And Renovations

Casco Viejo In Panama City, Panama

A Young Man Helped Us Park On The Curb Like This

An Old Church

 View From Altos de Campana Overlook

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Walk Back In Time...... To Noriega's Forgotten Beach House

Our day yesterday took us from the Pacific Coast beaches of Farallon though the majestic mountains of Santa Fe, Panama. Just down the highway from our area lies several of well-known pricey resorts that cater to the tourist looking for an all inclusive Panama experience. 

Nearby the famous resorts sits the remains of what used to be the weekend getaway for former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega.  After driving by the compound and asking a few locals for directions, we managed to find what was once a majestic beach-front dwelling.

Side View Into House
These Are The Stairs We Climbed To The
Second And Third Floor. They Didn't Look Safe, But We Made It Up
 Clyde Went First On All Fours, So I Followed

Made It Up But Going Down Was Even Scarier......
Clyde Went Backwards But I Sat Down And Scooted Down Step By Step

 These Were A Breeze Compared To The Other Stairs
Pole Dancing? 

Beach View From House

Notice The Three Levels Of The House

Another View

A Skylight Perhaps?
Waiting For A Drink At The Rooftop Bar?

Balcony Overlooking The Pacific Ocean
Another View Of Rooftop Deck
 And Another

An Island In The Distance With A Cross On It

Local Artist's Rendering Of Noriega. 
Perhaps He Was Commissioned To Do This Piece?
This Place Went On And On.....Even More Dwellings
Across The Road, Perhaps For The Help?

As we entered the eerie old place we had to climb over rocks, rubble and trash.  Our minds wandered as we imagined what life used to be like in Panama under the rule of the ruthless dictator. Surely it wouldn't be a place for foreigners like us to spend our retirement years, so we're thankful that he's safely tucked away in prison.  We bravely climbed up the rickety steps on all fours, and even made our way to the third-level, outdoor entertainment area for a view of the ocean.

It was eerie walking through this house wich once housed the notorious dictator who was later brought down by the United States.  During his reign, it was reported that many soldiers and civilians were put to death in this very dwelling and it's picturesque grounds.  Although we were walking among concrete ruins, we could still feel the awe of standing in the middle of what was once the upper end of luxury.

The Yard

And More Of The Outside

Notice The Barbed Wire On Top Of Wall

A Tour Bus Sat Empty In Driveway, But We Saw No Tourists
Maybe They Were On The Beach?

Across The Road More Houses And A Watertank

Just down the road from the Noriega home and fancy resorts is the "real life" Panamanian village of Farallon.  Dotted with small, brightly colored cement block homes with hammocks swaying in the tropical breeze, this showed what life here is really all about.  We noticed a few brave tourists that left the comfort of the resorts to experience the small town life.  With it's stores, churches, restaurants and other simplicities the town also featured several shops that sold touristy items as a means of support.

An Internet Café/Real Estate Office in Farallon, Panama
Hammocks And Other Touristy Items For Sale

Local Home

Massive Windmills Along The Highway
These Suckers Are HUGE!

After exploring the beach area we headed up into the mountains of Santa Fe. Located in the Veraguas mountain range, the temperature dropped about 10 degrees as we made our way up into the clouds.  Surrounded by national parks, streams, rivers and hiking trails it appeared to be a natures lovers paradise. But even in the dry season rain comes in the mountains and it poured hard as we stopped for a cup of mountain grown coffee at a local restaurant. But since it was already late in the day and our trip was not at all planned, we decided to head back home.  Although it would have been great to spend the night, I didn't even have my purse with me which meant that I had no contact lens supplies to take care of my eye care needs.

Mountains Of Santa Fe

And More Views

But we did snap some photos along the way and managed to borrow others from other online sources for your viewing pleasure.  Enjoy them if you will and come with us on a walk through time......along the gringo trail.