I realized that through the Comments I've come to "know" a few of you--certainly not well, but have gotten a little bit of a nice "feel" as to who you are.
I'm not concerned about the rich, and I sincerely doubt that any of them read this blog, which is just as well. But I am concerned about people like us--retirees or anyone else who is living on modest incomes, who is feeling perhaps financial or other pressures and who dreams about getting away "from it all" and fulfilling some--again-- dream, of comfortable living in a tropical paradise. Too much Hollywood.
It's these people to whom I address my concerns, almost frantic when I read about the innocence and naiveté upon which people seem to be headed towards making life-changing decisions.
Mary and I went through the list of the ex-pats we know around here--not every ex-pat who has moved here because we certainly don't know everyone by any means--and counted how many households are in the process of leaving or trying to leave. It adds up to 40% or 50%, depending on what we think one person is going to do. Of 10 households, fully 4 and possibly 5 want out or are on their way out. The financial loss for at least two is or will be considerable. I'd hate to see some of yo wind up in that position, or so unhappy that what should be really good years for you turn out to be miserable.
However, I have the nasty character attribute of sort of taking responsibility that definitely isn't mine on my shoulders. Whether or not any of you make informed decisions, whether or not you come here at least considering the risks, whether or not you're going to continue to be so desperate or so blind or so in love with a fantasy that you move here regardless and then fall victims to the predators, both Panamanians and gringo (especially American), who are here waiting for you, is really not my concern.
So, thank you to those who have made comments that they've found my blog informative. I think I was never so happy with the blog as when it served as an information exchange for tick removal and suppression, because that sort of thing is exactly who I am. I will continue to write about what I encounter here--I have one post in mind about problems with labor that have come up for us quite recently--but mostly I want to document the real reason why we came here--what we enjoy about living in this area. I'm going to be busy for the next few days, but when I return to this blog, it will be with photos, hopefully videos about the Potrerillos library and the new additions to the school.
By the way, Dan, I did follow up on Charles Colburn and learned some things last night; I intend to learn much more over the next few days. but you're right--he helped the Potrerillos library enormously.
So I want to leave the subject of risks with this warning: if you intend to buy land and build, you will face the two greatest risks you have in moving here--buying the land and not being taken (no water, for instance) and then finding an honest and/or competent contractor. There is absolutely no way to overemphasize those dangers. It's not possible.
If you decide to buy in a development or another type of existing house, you are merely facing those risks once removed. I know every screw, every tubo, every bag of cement, every piece of rebar, every beam in this house because I bought them and I checked them out as they arrived. This is not the US--you don't have the same disclosure laws protecting you. Buying into a development that exists only on paper is or is only partially complete is, at this point, a horrendous risk for many different reasons, not the least of which is that developers are going broke and leaving people high and dry with no possibility of getting their considerable deposits back.
Sometimes I think I make it sound like we knew everything and avoided all problems and had some sort of easy time of it here, because we were all-knowing. No. But from our individual experiences in Latin America--Mary spent three years in the Caribbean doing graduate work, me the equivalent of over a year in the poor parts of Brasil--we knew what we were in for as far as culture and the lack of infrastructure was concerned. We knew the kinds of things we would have to do without but we also knew what we considered to be the benefits.
We also listened to the advice and warnings of some gringos--American and Canadian--who had been here for a long time. I will be forever indebted to those three people for their kindness, patience, advice, and help. Without them, and the sharp but honest and extraordinarily helpful Panamanian businesswoman who sold us our land, I don't know that we would have come out of the experience here in any kind of good shape. We are not rich. We built here based on the proceeds of the sale of a very modest house in the US, and we live on Social Security. We could not afford a major disaster and we didn't have one, thanks in good part to these three people.
Without question, we also had a certain amount of luck. What percentage that was, I couldn't say. But it factored in.
Even then, we made mistakes. But after you get through the major hassles, the rest you can deal with.
So that's it. If you have questions, you can ask me, and I'll give you whatever information I have based on my experiences and those of people I know (within limits--don't ask me about real estate). But for the most part, I need to get out from underneath what this blog has become.