I've been in my new home country, Panama, for about 24 hours now, and it feels more like home than anyplace I've been in at least 17 years. And for February, I'm not even in my own place, but rather a luxury 23rd floor suite at the Esplendor Hotel.
Maybe it's the people. Even though I speak hardly a word of Spanish, we seem to communicate and they are welcoming and friendly, if not downright exuberant. I definitely am more a tropical person than a chilly wet weather aficionado, though the transition from San Francisco may take a few weeks in body adjustment. But sunny and warm are my favorite weather report words.
So I've begun my status as an expat. Some of my friends are pretending to be jealous or envious. But most of them have less hurdles to leap over to accomplish such a major move than I had. If they knew all the nitty gritty facts about Panama, it would no longer be pretending. This is perhaps the most telling fact about this small Central American nation between two great oceans--those who are its most enthusiastic fans are mostly well-traveled folks who have seen much of the world and can thus compare the delights of Panama to many alternatives.
I had a great meal last night at Jimmy's, just across the street. And a great brunch at Manolos, just down the road. Played some low stakes three card poker at the Royal Casino, got my factory unlocked iPhone 5 fitted with a sim card, a month's worth of unlimited text and data service for $15, and a $10 prepaid phone card, walked down the street to the huge Rey supermarket and bought some preliminary necessities, like Coke Zero, locally made paper towels and toilet tissue, Kleenex, an onion, and a very strange purplish tomato that sliced open looks like a maroon kiwi, but tastes like an interestingly tart tomato. My total bill was $8.50.
Tomorrow, with two friends, I visit the famous Allbrook Mall for some more shopping. They serve such generous portions at the restaurants here, that in between eating out, I may largely survive on doggie bags.
Bringing all my stuff with me means I have about three days worth of intense unpacking to do. But knowing me, I will probably take three weeks to do it. No one has to say, "Welcome to Panama, Jerry," though they do. The place itself shouts out a warm Latin welcome from every direction.
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