Anniversaries are a good time for reflection so now that we’ve just passed our 1-year mark in Panama, I thought I’d do a little before and after. BEFORE is our thinking before we came to Panama. AFTER is what we are thinking now. Here goes…
Before: Let’s go to Panama for 2 years and then come back to Arizona.
After: Let’s stay in Panama a year, then travel indefinitely. We have no idea when we’ll be back to Arizona.
Before: Let’s store our important household items in a climate-controlled high-cost storage unit. We’ll need it all when we get back.
After: Everything goes. We now have our most precious memories and personal items in one 10×10 unit.
Before: We will take 13 suitcases to Panama. We need all that stuff.
After: One suitcase per person and one carry on. That’s it. If it doesn’t fit it doesn’t go.
Before: We will take one entire suitcase filled with nothing but homeschool books.
After: We barely have time for homeschool and there’s a lot you can use online or in your area. Math books are the only exception.
Before: I (Allison) will drive very little in Panama and definitely not in the city.
After: You gotta do what you gotta do. I have driven to the city by myself 3 times so far.
Before: Everyone says it’s hot and humid but we are from Arizona, we are used to the heat.
After: Never ever ever underestimate how high humidity changes your degree of comfort in the heat.
Before: We will enjoy fresh fruits and veggies locally grown. We will lose weight!
After: There are fresh fruits and veggies but not the infrastructure to get them to all parts of Panama. We consider ourselves lucky when we find some locally. And we got fatter.
Before: We will have good internet and be able to watch movies and our TV shows online.
After: When no one else is streaming and all the planets aligned we can usually watch some stuff on Netflix or Hulu. But we are one of the few lucky ones with DSL for internet.
Before: The girls will learn Spanish effortlessly and be fluent in no time.
After: It’s going well but it’s not as easy as you think. Private lessons at Spanish school and daily public school and lots of misunderstandings. One year in and Zoe spoke to me in Spanish when she was sleeping so we are definitely making progress.
Before: I (Allison) will learn to cook all sorts of new Panamanian food!
After: We hired someone to cook and we are not overly fond of all the typical Panamanian dishes. Our cook serves a lot of our favorites from home (albeit with a Panamanian twist).
Before: The girls will have Panamanian Best Friends.
After: Haley has friends who are nice to her at school. Zoe knows a lot of people. But Besties? Still Americans or Expats. It’s hard to overcome cultural and language differences to the degree you’d need to for a Bestie.
So it’s not like we didn’t do our research, or we were naive (OK, the humidity thing, we were definitely naive), it’s that you just don’t know what you don’t know! I guess that’s the argument for why you should get up and go somewhere rather than just read about it. You can’t possibly know how it will feel (to you, specifically) and if your choices were the right ones until you do it.
I’m sure we will have preconceived notions about our next destination, which will be erroneous or naive. But that’s all part of the education. Bring it!