The inevitable question. Whether it's an American I've just met at the grocery store, or an email from an old friend, they always shoot the same question:
Now why would an American in Panama ask me this? After all, he or she is already here. He knows perfectly well what is attractive about Panama. But the person always asks, just the same, like a parrott with a pet phrase. Why Panama! Why Panama! Polly want a cracker!
Ok, I'm being unkind. People are genuinely curious. Alright, let's answer it then and be done. I'll get a business card printed up with this blog address, and anytime someone asks me, "Why Panama?", I'll just hand them the card. Or maybe, since it's such a popular topic, I should create a website called, "Why Panama?"
The number one reason for any American to move to Panama, according to a recent poll of expatriates living here, is the low cost of living. Noriegaville News calls us "cheap but happy." By the way, Noriegaville is fine for exposing corruption and scandals, but if you are looking for more balanced Panama news, the only real source is Eric Jackson's The Panama News.
And guess what? "Cheap but happy" goes for me too. I guess I could summarize my reasons as follows:
- Low cost of living allows my family to make do with my income alone. Laura can take time off work in order to devote herself to the baby, learning Spanish, and personal projects. We're out of the rat race, no longer running just to turn the wheel. We have a maid and a gardener - try to do that in the USA on a middle class salary.
- People are kind here. Anytime I go to the store or one of the local restaurants, they ask about Laura and the baby by name. People smile, shake your hand, make conversation. Friends call and ask how I'm doing. People are kind.
- It's beautiful here in El Valle de Anton. Peaceful, green, and natural. When Salma gets older she can run around outside with no worries of traffic or kidnappers. I wake up to birdsong and fall asleep to the chorus of crickets and frogs.
Of course sometimes I want to wring the necks of the neighbor's roosters, and occasionally the other neighbor's dogs start yowling like Armageddon has arrived, until I go to the window and shout, "Shut up!" To no avail, since they are Spanish-speaking dogs.
And none of this applies to Panama City, where you wake up to trucks shifting gears, or cars honking because the traffic light turned green one tenth of a second ago, and fall asleep to the sound of car alarms.
- The chance to experience something different, to learn a new language, and to broaden my horizon as a human being.
- It's nice to live in a country where I don't have to worry that I might soon have to wear an armband and register as an Alien Minority, just because I am a Muslim. Think I'm being extreme? I hope you're right.