Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Questions About El Valle de Anton from a Reader, Part One

Back in April 2006 I got an email from a fellow named Zach who lives in Colorado. He wrote,

My wife and I have been exploring the idea of living outside of the US for several years. We traveled to Panama in January 2006 and visited Panama City, El Valle, Santa Clara, Boquete/Volcan and Bocas and fell in love with Panama and the Panamanians.

Since then we've been considering where we would like to try and purchase some land. El Valle is high on our list for a lot of reasons including the amazing beautiful landscape, proximity to Panama City, the availability of a good internet connection and overall 'good vibe'.

We currently live in Colorado. My wife works as a project manager/drafter in architecture but is also a talented artist, and I'm a web developer with a video production background. We're both in our thirties so it's encouraging to hear about other folks who are not of retirement age making a move from the US to Panama. I also noticed you're also in the web development field. We have been emailing another couple who are video production professionals in Arizona who've purchased a lot in El Valle. Seems like there will be quite a vibrant creative community in Panama in the coming years!

Zach and Danyell

We stayed in touch by email, and Zach later wrote,

My wife and I are taking a trip to Panama in late November to look for property. We're planning on staying a few days in El Valle (Los Capitanes probably) and would love to meet you and your family.

Since I last emailed, we've been working with a local agent to find properties around El Valle, but it seems like there just is not much available and what is for sale is very expensive. So, we've been focusing our search on property in Chiriqui (our other favorite area) but feel like we should compare El Valle to that area one more time before we decide!

Indeed Zach and Danyell did come to El Valle in late November 2006, and Laura and I met them at NiƱa Delia (a local motel and restaurant) for dinner. We found them to be likeable and easy to talk to, and in one of those ubiquitous "small world" coincidences, we learned that Zach used to work at a movie theater in Berkeley that Laura and I used to patronize.

Just a few days ago Zach emailed me a few questions about El Valle:

Like I mentioned in my comment on your blog (which rocks) Danyell and I are hunkering down and trying to decide which area of Panama to settle. We have a tendency to "over think" things! At any rate, we're favoring El Valle and have some questions that perhaps you can answer from your experience living there. I hope that we are not too much of a pain in the a** - we just feel like we can trust you guys...

1. We understand that it can be pretty windy during the dry season. How windy and how often? Has this been a major nuisance for you or is it just "breezy"?

2. Also on the weather front, I've had a hard time finding a good weather website that has accurate current or historical weather trends. Do you know of any good sites? We're trying to figure out how hot/cold it gets.

3. I will continue to do web development work for a living which requires a good and reasonably consistent internet connection. I remember your story about the installation process, but how well has your wireless system worked since then? How often does it go down and what other
options are there in town if you need to get something done?

4. Finally, on our trip we looked at a lot that we really liked - it's about 2000 m2, has a little creek next to it, lots of established trees and plants and seems to be on a quiet streets (it's a corner lot). We're curious if you could go by this lot and see if, as a resident, you would notice any negative attributes that we wouldn't have considered as a tourist. Below are instructions - you'll see the for sale signs:

"beyond the Catholic church, turning right to cross the bridge..."

Zach, I did not include the complete directions to your lot, so that none of my other readers will snatch it up. Here are my answers to your questions:

1. The Wind: Sometimes I think I could trip and fall, and the wind would hold me up. The wind blows day and night in the dry season. In the daytime it's a refreshing breeze that makes fans and air conditioning unnecessary and feels lovely on your skin.

At night the wind seems to pick up in strength. The temperature is still quite comfortable, but with the wind it can feel downright chilly. We have to shut all the windows, otherwise the drafts tear through the house, blowing pictures off the walls, slamming doors and even blowing cushions off the sofa. Sometimes the wind dies down a bit and becomes just a gentle carress. Then suddenly it revs up to gale force strength, howling above the house, sounding as if it's going to tear off the roof. In fact it did recently rip away one of our rain gutters.

Our living room does not have solid windows, only screens, and three celing fans. High on the wall is mounted a sort of demon's head, a local craft left by the previous owner. Last night I went into the living room late at night to get a book I had left there. It was dark and the wind was rushing through the room. All the ceiling fans were spinning from the force of the zephyrs, and the demon's head was swinging back and forth, as if surveying its tempestuous domain.

And now I've exhausted all my synonyms for wind.

2. The Temperature: You've been here, so you know what the temperatures are like. Panama is sub-tropical, so the temperature is almost the same all year round, though of course the wind makes it feel much colder in the dry season. The year-round average high temperature is 20° C (68° F), and the average nighttime minimum is a comfortable 16° C (61° F). There's almost no difference between "summer" and "winter" temperatures, the only real variation being the amount of wind and rain from season to season.

3. Internet Service: Yes, I use a service called Mobilphone, based in Panama. I pay $75 a month for a 284K connection, not quite fast enough to watch real-time video, but good enough to qualify as broadband. It's very reliable. Maybe once a month I wake up to find that the connection is not working. I call Mobilphone tech support, they adjust something on their end, and it comes back up within minutes. Only one time was service completely disconnected for a long period of time - 2 days - because a primary cable into El Valle had gone down. No one in El Valle had internet service during that time. I went to the city to get my work done.

There is a small internet shop next to the serpentarium. It's cramped, hot and the connection is unreliable. Cost is 40 cents an hour, I think.

The local library, next to the church, has about 20 internet terminals. It's a more comfortable environment, and the connection is more reliable, though it does drop out frequently. Cost is $1 an hour, I believe.

Your last question, about your lot, will be answered in Part Two.


Laura in Panama said...

It is true. The wind in the valley is constant these days but in my estimation, a welcome change. Day and night we live in this beautiful, tropical place (terrible, I know) with little to differentiate one day from the next. The wind is in one moment playful while the next commanding all the while providing the people who are in its path with a lot of Ooo's and Ahhh's.

Zach said...

Very interesting - Thanks!

The winds do not sound that bad - nothing is perfect, but the weather in the highland tropics is pretty darn close! Here in Colorado we routinely have 30-50 mph wind gusts along with extreme cold/extreme hot temperatures, ice/snow and persistent droughts... The main thing for us is to be comfortable outside most of the time including the evenings.

The weather site I've been reading is AccuWeather.com and it always shows temperatures that seem higher than I would expect.

Glad to hear that your internet connection has been solid. I've started doing some research on a satellite-based connection as a possible back-up to the wireless system. So far it looks like there's not many services with coverage in Panama and they're quite expensive.

Danyell and I are anxiously awaiting part 2!