I just received this question from a reader:
Hi, I enjoy reading your blog occasionally! and have some questions for you. I would be most appreciative if you could answer some.
How was it having your daughter Salma in El Valle? Did you feel she got enough interaction with other kids? If you had stayed married and lived there, would you have homeschooled? Did you meet any expats with children, or were they mostly retirees? Are there Panamanian families with kids who live in the nicer area year round?
Lot of questions I know; we're thinking of moving to Central America and trying to decide where. We have a 2 1/2 year old and she is our main concern, with kids/school/etc.
Hello Saro. First, thanks for reminding me that that are real people that actually read my blog, ha ha.
Growing up in El Valle was wonderful for Salma. I might have liked for her to have more interaction with other English-speaking kids; but she often played with our neighbor's children (a local Panamanian family), or they came to our house to play. Though I think they came as much for Salma's toys as for Salma herself.
There are so many children in El Valle, that it would be hard not to find kids to interact with. When I went to the Video Store (Videos El Valle, on the Orchideas road), there were always so many kids playing down there at the end of the road, in the ANAM parking lot, it was like a playground. I used to take Salma and let her play for an hour or so. When we pulled up in the car the kids would shout, "Salma! Salma!" and rush to take her hand and play with her.
That's another thing about the local people, they are very warm and friendly and Salma grew up thinking that everyone in the world is her friend and that it's the most natural thing in the world to take another child's hand and say, "What's your name? I'm Salma."
Now that she's been in the USA for several months she's lost some of that natural ebullience and trust and that saddens me. As often as not, when she approaches children here and tries to talk to them, they ignore her.
We also had a very nice local nanny in El Valle who worked five hours a day, five days a week; that's something we would never have been able to afford in the USA.
We often talked about what we would do when Salma reached school age. One option was to put her in the local public school, then homeschool her on top of that. In the local school she would learn Spanish fluently, and the hours are rather abbreviated anyway. Then at home we would teach her in English.
Now there are more options. I've heard there is a good English-language private school in Gorgona now, about 1 hour from El Valle. And at the rate that Coronado (45 minutes away) is growing, I wouldn't be surprised to see a private school there soon.
Best of luck to you and I hope you'll write again later and let me know what you decided and how it's going.