I took this quick shot with my crummy camera phone out the passenger window yesterday. Doesn’t this perspective make the twisty tower on Calle 50 look like a giant drill bit?
Here is the normal (exquisitely beautiful) view of it:
This is our family’s favourite building in Panama. It may not be the tallest skyscraper in the world, but it certainly is one of the prettiest!
Three years ago today, we touched down in the most beautiful country on this planet of ours! A country that has given our whole family so many rich experiences. A country that has encouraged all five of us to live life to its full potential. A country that has inspired all five of us to become active, fit and sporty, by sheer virtue of year round warmth, blue skies, and easy availability of activities.
We are here thanks to my husband’s job working on the canal expansion project. What an opportunity landed in our lap (or, more precisely, my husband’s inbox) that day! How could we have lived with ourselves if we had timidly turned it down? Well, thank goodness we didn’t!
My children have thrived at their all-American, super-positive school – which still reminds me of Rydell High each time I see it! Each day they have their recess/playtime outside, in the shade of an enormous gnarled old tree, frequently watched by emerald green parrots.
Every day I thank my lucky stars that we somehow, through all of life’s very high ups and extraordinarily low downs, made it to this place, which, thanks to the invention of insect repellent, really is Heaven on Earth for us, at least. Not surprisingly there are many places here named ‘Paraiso’, in English ‘PARADISE’.
Panama, you have my heart forever and ever.
I am excited to announce that I am now a Freelance Writer for travel website Mondo Explorer! Developing my writing skills is something that has happened gradually and organically as a result of my passion for Panama which urged me to start my blog, almost three years ago now.
I am delighted to able to use my knowledge and enthusiasm about this incredibly special country to reach a wider audience, and, hopefully, to inspire more people to visit, or at least to help them decide on the best places to go during their time here.
Here is a link to my very first article for them which I hope will prove to be the first of many. I also included a bonus photo of Casco Antiguo which was left over. 🙂
So, I was delighted to be contacted by a Panamanian-based journalist to be interviewed for International Living Magazine. We met at a lovely coffee shop surrounded by palms complete with monkeys. It gave me a tiny taste of what it must be like to be famous: the lady who interviewed me was just delightful – I think you can tell, however, that the quotes are not exactly the kind of things I would say. Particularly “it has an American College Preparatory Program” ! 🙂 Oh, plus, I don’t live in Ancon! I do live just ten minutes drive from Ancon (although not where stated in the article – fortunately, from a privacy point of view), so we will let her off! Dear lovely journalist, if you ever read my tongue-in-cheek introduction to your article, for example, on twitter, I hope you take it in the friendly spirit with which it is intended! Here is the article:
Ancon is filled with greenery and quiet neighborhoods—a far cry from the nearby city center of Panama City
A garrison flag flutters on the peak of Ancon Hill. When you can see that flag, you know you’re in Ancon, the massive district formerly referred to as the Canal Zone.
It’s filled with greenery and quiet neighborhoods—a far cry from the nearby city center, known for the skyscrapers that twinkle and sparkle as they tower over the glassy Panama Bay.
Ancon is close to the Panama Canal, and keeping it clean and green is a priority for the Panama Canal Authority (and area residents).
Tucked into the hill, about halfway up the narrow drive that continues to the peak, you’ll find one of the city’s most beautiful landmarks, a building in the style of the Italian Renaissance. Every resident of this city has admired the sandy stone exterior, the majestic rotunda (filled with murals depicting the creation of the Canal), and the marble steps leading down the hill, to the green lawns of Balboa. (This landmark is home to the Panama Canal Administration.)
I’m meeting expat Jane Ellis at a cafe here—her home in Clayton’s Embassy Village is just a five-minute drive away.
The tables on the patio are surrounded by deep green, jungly foliage. A sign warns us to watch out for frolicking monkeys and falling mangos (but the monkeys seem content to perch above us in their trees).
This area is bordered to one side by the Camino de Cruces national park, a green swath that points the way to the massive Metropolitan Park. The residential sector is dotted with small parks and little soccer fields, and people walk everywhere rather than drive.
Jane and her husband Martin came here from Scotland in search of exciting work and warm weather…along with their three children—Gavin, 10; Katie, eight; and Donald, five. Martin landed a job working on the Panama Canal expansion mega-project. Jane took up translating—a portable career that allows her to work from home—and became an ambassador for local charity Cambio Creativo.
“That was about two and a half years ago,” says Jane, who’s thoroughly enjoying her vida Panameña. Being in Ancon has been a great experience for Jane’s entire family. “We were tempted by the city center…the skyline over the Panama Bay…but we’re very happy here,” says Jane. “We’re just five minutes away from the kids’ school, Balboa Academy, and they love it,” she says. “It has an American college preparatory program and it’s a really positive environment,” she adds.
With homes instead of high-rises, and friendly neighbors, Jane says the community is near perfect. “The biggest difficulty is that you meet people who are only here for a few years…people who work for embassies and the like. You get attached.”
Still, she says, there is a good mix of both expat and Panamanian residents, so some of the friends she has made are lifers. “We don’t feel like we’re cut off from Panama, even though we’re in a gated community. Our neighbors are from Panama, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Spain, China…all over,” she says. “It’s really easy to meet people here…they’ll ask you where you’re from and start talking to you.”
Clayton is one of Panama’s most coveted communities, and as such homes here are more costly than elsewhere in the country…or even in Panama City. Whereas small apartments, say 700 square feet, can be had for under $100,000 in many parts of Panama City, you’ll find it a challenge to find anything for under $150,000 in the Clayton sector. At time of writing, I found a few apartments of about 1,000 square feet listed for between $150,000 and $165,000 in Clayton and neighboring Albrook.
You’ll find more duplexes and single-family homes for sale in Clayton than apartments, though, and these tend to start at around $250,000 for 1,200 square feet or more.
For that price, you get to live in a safe and elegant community.
“Back home, we lived in a nice house, but I couldn’t let the kids play unsupervised,” Jane says. “I was always worried a car would speed by. Now we can open our door and see kids on bikes or playing basketball. Our little girl is fascinated by nature now, too. She is always finding tropical lizards and frogs and other creatures. We allow her and the boys to walk about within the community. We’re free here…”
I am very excited to have been asked to write articles about culture in Panama by renowned Art/Culture/Travel website The Culture Trip! I plan to start later this month with a review of the Paul Gauguin exhibition currently at the Canal Museum.
Gauguin actually spent time in Panama on his way to Tahiti, I believe on Isla Taboga, and apparently even worked on the construction of the canal! So, although he was a French painter, he has a lot to do with this place in which I am lucky enough to live. I am looking forward to finding out more about his time here, and I’m hoping he left some paintings of Panama behind him!
Anyway, The Culture Trip website is really beautiful, and they have been kind enough to put my blog on their Panama page, so please check it out! Also, in the news feed section, there is a translation I did from Spanish to English for Global Voices in the ticker! It really is a small world, and my worlds of translation and blogging are definitely overlapping more than I envisaged in the beginning.