Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Pensionado Visa

The first and foremost reason that Panama is one of the best places to retire in the world is because of the Pensionado Visa.  This is said to be one of the best retirement packages in the world. It offers discounts on everything from health care, airline tickets, electricity, taxes, hotels etc.    Of course we all know that anything worth having is something we have to work for.  To obtain this coveted holy grail of the retirement world is not without it's share of headaches. 

From what I understand, the Panamanian government came up with this discount program for it's own retiree's and then extended it to foreigners.  This programs entices foreigners to retire in Panama bringing money into their ecomony. 

Anyone can apply for this visa if they have a pension or are receiving social security from outside of Panama.

There Must an ending

We have to finish one book before we start another.   Finish the main course before having dessert. Close one door before opening another.  Before every new beginning, there must first be an ending. 

As we say our good byes to friends and family, pack up our boots and cowboy hats for bikini's and flip flops we're deeply saddened.  We traded in the working world for lazy days in the sun  and nights filled with salsa dancing and Spanish lessons.  All those years of  working hard, raising kids, saving money and dreaming of the day when we can retire.  It has finally come!  We should be thrilled that we don't have to go to work tomorrow, so why are we so sad?  Because we realize how hard it is to say good bye to those we love so dear.

It saddens us to no longer be close by for our kids, although they've all turned out to be fine adults with lives of their own who we are very proud of.  Not to be able to see our grandson everytime he learns something new.  To miss out on his first day of school and all the "firsts" that go along with growing up.  To realize that he'll grow closer to the other grandparents since this set of grandparents have gone off on an adventure.  A visit to see this grandma will mean a plane ride to another country. 

Children grow up and leave their parents homes to make lives of their own.  Parents grow old and retire and look for something new and exciting to do.  Since we were fortunate enough to retire early, we are healthy and young enough to enjoy ourselves. We are looking for an alternative to the expensive health care, housing and other costs in the US.  We  hope to find a cheap way to live, while being able to have fun, travel to new places and keep our minds active learning new things. 

So please understand children, family and friends that we are not running away, not abandoning any of you.  We open our house, hearts and arms to all of you.  We ask you all to come visit and share in our new life and adventures in Panama.  We hope you will all support us in our crazy plan to move our lives to a foreign country.  We will be immersed in a new culture, new language and hope to make new acquaintances but they will never take the place of those we've left behind.  We plan to visit often and are no more than a phone call or email away. 

We all have to get older but we don't have to stop living, loving and enjoying this life, since it's the only one we get.  Let's all enjoy life to it's fullest and not be afraid to try new things. This is not our grandparents retirement! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Panama or Bust

When I first married Clyde almost 8 years ago now he said to me, "I can promise you that life with me will never be boring." Of course he also told me that "he was my knight in shining armour that came to rescue me from a life of boredum in the big red fire truck."  But I've heard it said before that "sometimes your knight in shining armour is really a retard in tin foil."  So lets' just say that all of the above describes my dear, sweet husband Clyde and he's sooooo much more.

Fast forward another 7 years of happily, married bliss.  One day dear Clyde read an article about baby boomers retiring early and moving abroad for fun, excitement and a cheaper way to live.  He sheepisly mentioned that he was just looking into this.  Possibly Belize since it's English speaking, but also directly in the hurricane zone, I had to point out.  I quickly burst that bubble. Bound and determined Clyde pointed out the benefits of other countries like Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.  Low crime rates, good cheap health care, low cost of living, slower pace of life, not too far from the US.  Being the internet junkie that he is and having lots of free time at the fire station to play on the computer, he soon discovered that Panama boasted that it has one of the best retirement packages in the world. 

A "Fonda" Restaurant
Chicken Breast and Fried Plantain

He said to me one day, "if we could find a way to live cheaply on my pension and have fun would you be interested?".....or "do you want to keep working another 15 years?"  Keep working???  Where we going and how we getting there?  And.....we need to learn to speak Spanish, and we need to start NOW.

One thing that my dear hubby and I have in common is determination. When we get our minds set on doing something, we think of nothing else.  So for about a year we both researched Panama online, bought books, watched videos, connected to message boards, and picked the brains of anyone that had any inkling of what it was like. We planned a vacation in January 2011 for a week. We rented a car in Panama City and drove 1500 miles through the whole country leaving a long path of gringo trails.  We drove down unpaved roads that were so rugged we expected a wheel to fall off the rental car. With  just a little Spanish knowledge and a BIG gringo smile we gambled at penny slots, ate for as little as $1.25 in local fondas, dug our toes into the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean, chatted with Kuna women selling molas on the side of the road and had the adventure of a lifetime.  With 4 months of Rosetta Stone Spanish under our belts we managed to order food, get hotel rooms, get a flat tire fixed, and survive when immersed in a foreign country.

Getting our Tire Replaced

Upon arriving back in Texas we knew we had a mission.  To find a way to make our move to Panama a reality!  We had a yard sale to unload some of our stuff and put our house up for sale. Many people came to look at the house since we offered it as "an owner finance."  We had one couple interested and we thought it was a done deal until they offered us $10,000 less for the house. We declined that offer and within ONE HOUR another couple walked in, loved the house, liked us and felt that this was the right house for them.  In a housing market where nothing is moving, we sold our house in 3 weeks along with most of the furniture.  This will enable us to sleep in our bed until the very last day since the house buyers bought our bedroom set and have been gracious enough to allow us to stay here. 

We both believe BIG in the Power of Positive Thinking....and by believing that this was meant to be, everything just fell into place. 

In June we signed a contract on a rent house in Capira, Panama about 40 minutes outside of Panama City. We will be renting a 1400 square foot house, 3 bedroom, 2 baths for only $300 a month.  It's located 15 minutes from the beaches and 15 minutes from the mountains.  Clyde developed a repoir with the new land lady Betsy through email. She has been wonderful in answering all of our questions since she is bi-lingual and is willing to help us get settled when we make the move. 
This is our Home in Capira

The clock is ticking......the countdown is on.....we have 11 days left until we fly out to start our new adventure and life in "the place where the world meets,"..........Panama. 

The Empty Box on the Floor

The clock is ticking, the countdown is on....our bags are packed, ok so not really.  Determined to start packing one day last week I secured a lovely box, started to empty out the china cabinet and came upon Grandma's dishes.  Oh the childhood memories they brought back.  Christmas Eve at Grandma's eating good Polish sauerkraut and kielbasa off those plates, her famous cole slaw, cookies sprinkled with powder sugar and so much more.  Did I really want to take Grandma's dishes all the way to Panama?  Did they need to be put into a box that would go into a crate which would go into a shipping container to make the long journey across the sea? 

Grandma's been gone for years, the rest of the family probably has forgot that I even have these dishes.  But I can't just toss them out.  Can't just dump them off at Goodwill so I did the next best thing.  I called my daughter and asked if she would like to have this antique dish set that belonged to her Great Grandmother, and she agreed to take them, love them and be responsible for them until she could someday dump them off on her son.  So off I ran to take the beloved dishes over to Desiree's apartment and returned home to the empty box on the floor.   Needless to say that ended my packing frenzy for that day


Life In Portugal....At A Snails Pace....

Yesterday was just another day in Portugal when my dear husband Clyde said he was going to run to the pharmacy for a few things. Time passed...