So much has happened in a short time. Last spring, I told David that I wanted to check out Medellin to maybe split our time from Boquete. As time moved on, we decided to just jump in and give Colombia a try. We found a nice AirBnB for 9 weeks and got renters for our Boquete house.
We arrived in October and did our best to live like a local. It was so easy. Medellin has an excellent transportation system with its Metro, taxis and buses. They are super user friendly even to newbies. The grocery stores are filled with just about anything an expat would want. Jumbo and Exito are large food and department stores with clothing, appliances, school supplies etc. in addition to their well stocked grocery store. Restaurants from every part of the globe are here. Arab? Yes Seafood? Yes BarBQue? Yes The Colombian people are very, very nice. They put up with our lacking Spanish with no sign of impatience. They are helpful and accommodating. They are determined to be fit. Gyms are everywhere and there are gyms in most apartment complexes. On Sunday, Avenida Poblado is closed to traffic for people, kids, dogs, bikers, runners and walkers. Zumba and Rumba instructors also have found places along the avenue to play music while leading the dancing crowds. And there’s so much to do. Every neighborhood has at least one park. The streets are sometimes hilly, but easy to navigate for walkers. Malls are plentiful and modern. There are many language exchange nights around the large city. The Christmas lights were gorgeous. Family is everything here. We have seen that at malls, during holidays and just walking in town. Dogs are everywhere and they are adored. They are allowed in malls and outdoor restaurants. The number of people who stop their day to pet our dogs is still amazing to us.
While enjoying life in the big city, we also had to get a place to live. Most apartments are unfurnished. That means no light bulbs, no appliances, no drapes, nothing, nada. We used an agent and eventually found a great little, brand new, apartment near Parque Lleras. We began to fill our place – 3 bedrooms +1 (servicio) 4.5 bath place at Exito. We bought a refrigerator, TV and washer/dryer during Black Friday and Blue Samsung sales in November but arranged for delivery in January. Then mattresses, sheets, towels, plates, pots and pan, every little thing a well equipped kitchen need, bath mats – yikes! lots of shopping.
Furniture was the problem. Things in the store were odd to us. Most sofas became beds at night. Most was wood painted black. Most were very small pieces. So I went to the best local resource ever – Facebook. Within minutes, I learned to travel to El Retiro, about an hour by bus from here. What an amazing little town. Each tienda had a small showroom with what could be made in the back. We took pictures of things we liked and then returned home to think. Then back to El Retiro. We ended up buying from 4 different stores but most came from Muebles Oriental. We bought a sofa, 2 chairs, 2 bedroom sets, a dining table with chairs and a tv table. We returned 2 weeks ago for a buffet, plant stands and a bar. The first order was delivered the same day as the appliances. They came on the day and time they said they would be there. David and I dropped to the floor in shock.
With apartment contract signed and orders to fill said apartment done, we headed back to Panama. Our next chore was to get our house ready for our adorable renters. Some big things went into storage but most stayed. We sold a lot of things we had no plans to use again. We packed as much as we could and then, Jan 10-14, back to Medellin. During those 4 days our orders were delivered. We got the kitchen in order, beds made, clothes put away and then returned to Panama. On Jan 17, wonderful Luis Arce drove us, my good friend B, 3 large dogs and 3 unhappy cats to Panama City for our flight the next day.
The flight was uneventful. Even though I did a ton of research about importing animals, I never saw the words Airway Permit. Thankfully Luis (did I mention that he’s better than awesome?) knew and after driving us 7 hours to Panama City, he took David to cargo and begged the people there to open and get us the Airway. The next morning, Luis returned to take everyone to cargo with the dogs and their crates, the cats and their carriers, 6 huge bags, 3 carry-on bags and 3 adults to PTY. I can’t recommend Luis Arce enough.
We arrived in Medellin and our taxi was waiting for us. Actually a van and a taxi were waiting but it was not nearly enough space for our stuff. Multiple return trips to the airport, finally we were at our new home.
The people here have been wonderful and so helpful. We’ve met our neighbors and others on the street. Last night, Mohammad, a local rug seller invited us to his first restaurant opening. A group of expat living here had also lived in Cuenca, Ecuador. We went to their get-together and found that there were more ex-Boquete expats than those who came from Ecuador. Not surprising, a lot of people are interested in our move and we have had several visitors with more coming.
We knew that there would be less English spoken here than in Panama. Even at tourista bars and restaurants, English is rarely spoken. We had to deal with a woman who made all of our window treatments, an electrician to hang lights, documents written in Spanish, delivery people, and even joining a gym. Our Spanish has improved tremendously proving that old people can learn a foreign language if they want to.
Paisas (people who live in Medellin and surrounds) frequently ask us how we like their country (Love it!) and they are so happy when we tell them that we have moved here. They are genuinely open and glad foreigners are choosing their country to reside in.
Medellin had a very violent period but that is ancient history. The city is clean and beautiful. Education is important as is family. Health care is excellent and affordable. Eight of the best hospitals in South America are in Medellin. It’s very safe, even in the areas that were hard hit with cartel history.
We have no plans to buy an apartment or a car. Rent is low and public transportation is excellent. We are close to Parque Lleras (the go to tourist area) but seldom go there. Returning to Panama is doubtful though I miss my yard and orchids. Our patio will be filled with plants soon. Not the same but it seems better – at least so far.
No pics as I did 1+ hours in the sun for Zumba and painted the kitchen today.