9 Months Later

We have lived in our new apartment since January.  Medellin is so different than Boquete.  First, we live in a highrise with no yard.  The population in Medellin is about 2.5 million where in Boquete it was about 25,000.  You would think that we would never see people we know like we did in small Boquete, but we rarely go out where we don’t run into someone.  Two days ago it was friends from Boquete, N&T.

We moved here with our 3 large dogs and our 3 cats which wasn’t as horrible as it could have been.  Luis A drove us to PTY with muchas malletas, 6 animals, 6 cages, 3 humans and a bunch of nerves.  Luis is the absolute BEST!  Things that could have been a disaster, he took care of before our early morning departure.  I recommend him to anyone who is in Panama City.

While visiting in Oct-Dec 2017, we rented an AirBnB apartment.  In that time we got a lease, ordered appliances and furniture.  We wanted the apartment completely outfitted for our return with animals.  We told everyone in November and December that the delivery of orders had to be on Jan 14.  And it was!!!!  That’s another huge difference between Medellin and Panama.

Few Colombians speak English, unlike Boquete where Panamanians want to practice their English.  We finally enrolled in a real university.  After years of Spanish CDs, Habla Ya and private tutors, my placement level was A2.  That’s just above beginner.  David was A1, which IS beginner.  But we figured that if we were going to learn, we would follow their instruction.  We go to Eafit University.  They are professional, their courses are well planned, and we are learning everyday.

We are also starting classes to get our Colombian driver’s license.  Everyone, including adults with  US and Panama licenses, has to take the 38 hour course.  Then the 6 hour practical, which is driving.  Unfortunately, it runs 4-7 pm and Spanish class 9-11 am.  And the driving lessons are all in Spanish.

We don’t plan to buy a car but would like to be able to rent one occasionally so we can take the dogs out to the country.  Medellin is really, really dog friendly but pets  aren’t allowed on buses or the Metro.

Zumba here is problematic.  Beto Perez, the originator of Zumba, is from Colombia but we still have very few Zumba classes.  Instead, they have Rumba.  Rumba is  very easy to do so I don’t get a good workout.  It has no pattern and ends up being whatever random steps the instructor wants to do.  I find that we do the same thing way to much and it’s boring.  I don’t know why Rumba is so popular because it really sucks.

Because of our pet menagerie, we still need a housesitter when we leave.  One of the great things about Medellin is that everyone wants to visit.  We have had 2 different sitters and have another arranged for Christmas/New Years.  Our next sitters are 2 girls from Brazil who work online.  They are going to love Navidad in Medellin.  The city is gorgeous!

Shopping is another plus.  Clothes fit gringas and are well made.  Even Extra Large items were too small for me in Panama – and I am size 8-10 US.  Colombian women dress well.  They would never leave their house without hair done and make-up.  Men wear long pants.  Workers have various uniforms.  Everyone looks neat and I find that really nice.

A huge difference that we found is that every time someone asks us if we live here, they as “Como te  gusta Medellin?”   We tell them that we love it.  One hundred percent of the time, 100%, they are so happy we are here and welcome us.  I am embarrassed that the US doesn’t always make foreigners feel welcome.  Colombians could not be nicer to us.

We have already renewed our lease for another year with no hesitation.  Medellin is a nice place to visit but an awesome place to live.


Ecuador, no es para mi

Any of the many retirement sites will rank Panama and Ecuador as top locations for expats to begin their new lives.  We fell in love with Boquete so quickly, that we never made the jaunt further south to check out Cuenca.  Last year we went to Peru and found that the elevation of Cuzco was too difficult for our old lungs.  Huffing and puffing after climbing a few sets of stairs made me feel just old.  But we knew we wanted to visit Ecuador anyway – just to see what was all the hubbub was about.

We landed in Quito, spent an evening in Old Town and left the next day.  ECUADOR OTAVALO MKT We stopped at the Mitad del Mundo (the equator which is really not but they built a nice monument we went anyway) and then north to Otavalo.    Otavalo is known for its huge Saturday market.  It took up about half of downtown, running along all the streets near the central park.  There’s not a lot of variety but there were a lot of bargains.

Two lesser known places around Otavalo are Cotacacchi and the Condor Park.  Cotacacchi is known for its leather goods and its high percentage of expats.  The town was very clean, as were all the towns we saw in Ecuador.  There was no desire on our part to stay more than a day.  ecuador eagleThe Condor Park came highly recommended by our friends who had just returned from Ecuador.  They were right.  It turned out to be one of the few highlights of our trip.  They really are a rehabilitation center for large birds and owls.

And then the bad…. I got food poisoning from our hotel restaurant the night before we left.  Probably the chicken in the pot pie.

Off to Lasso, a small town about 4 hours south by bus.  Ecuador’s bus secuador lassoervice is as good, if not better, than Panama.  They are fairly comfortable, not freezing and they did not play videos at full blast.  Hats off and a big gracias for that.  Lasso is close to Cotapaxi, the tallest of the many volcanoes in the area.  We stayed in a beautiful, 400 year old hacienda that belongs to the Lasso family.

And then the bad…. The maid stripped our bed before we checked out – no I don’t know why since the place was almost deserted.  But with the sheets, she also got my make-up bag.  I called the hotel at our next stop, not 5 hours later, and they denied ever seeing it.  It was a bright pink Lancôme bag that not only had my make-up, but my hygiene products and my retainer.  The biggest replacement cost was my retainer, in a bright yellow container.  The biggest pain in the butt was trying to replace Lancome make-up in central Ecuador or any place south of the US border.  But even though I called and emailed several times, the manager said it was “never turned in” and “his staff is completely honest”, yadda, yadda, yadda –  I never saw my stuff again.

Next stop – Banos.  Banos is known for its volcanic baths. It’s a cute town.  Our hotel was just a block from the public baths.  Our first night there, we got our bathing caps and walked down.  We were warned about the clientele but hey, when in Banos, you bathe.  There were 3 pools.  The first one was too hot, the second was too cold.  The third was just right – to everyone since it everyone in Banos was in it.  We scooted our way to an edge and looked at the warm, mineral filled water.

And then the bad…   I noticed the guy next to me pleasuring himself. (no pictures of this, you’re welcome). I could only wonder what extra “minerals” he was adding to the water.  We were only at the baths for about 20 minutes but that was more than enough.  gone.

ecuador waterfall hikeThe next highlight of our trip was also in Banos.  We rented bicycles and drove down the calle de cascades.  It was 17 km to the final waterfall, which he had to hike down to.  It was a beautiful ride and hike.  And for $2, a guy in a truck will bring you and your bike back up the hill to town.

Our last stop was Cuenca, the mecca for expats in Ecuador.  It’s very pretty in the old section.  It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site so it will stay beautiful for future generations.  It’s a very large city.  But it would not have enticed us to retire there.  ecuador blue mudThey do have a beautiful spa which features the normal amenities but also  red and blue volcanic mud.  It was peaceful and relaxing until

And then the bad…. Although there are silencio signs everywhere so that people can relax in complete quiet, the spa invited about 15 young boys to use the “relaxing pool” that is suppose to finish off your visit.  We had planned to eat lunch in the shade by the pool.  Other guests apparently had the same idea.  But with 15 yelling, jumping, splashing boys in the silencio area, we all took a pass on lunch.   But it was very nice and I would definitely go again, but would inquire first about children.

We spent a week in Cuenca, visiting friends from Boquete, shopping, eating, even riding the Big Red Bus.  But we were ready to come home to our little pueblo in Panama.

So what did we like and not like?

Like:  Ecuador is clean.  Very little trash and litter.  In Cuenca, there were no stray dogs in the downtown area.  Their busses are user friendly and efficient.  Ecuador is beautiful.  Ecuador has a lot of green spaces for the public, particularly Cuenca with its numerous family parks.  Bike friendly.  The native Inca people are treated much better than indigenous in either the US or Panama and are, in many cases, a large percentage of the upper social class.  The fruits and vegetables are awesome. Real Ecuadorian Panama hats.  Their new president is a socialist and he has created many work projects that is apparent when you see their excellent road system.

Dislike:  Ecuadorians are not as friendly as the people in Chiriquí.  They don’t greet people/strangers on the street.  Tremendous amount of graffiti on buildings, especially in Cuenca.  High crime in Cuenca.  We were told by numerous people to be careful about robbery and theft crimes.  While having coffee, a man at a nearby table had his backpack stolen when he walked away for a few moments.  (But that was just dumb on his part)

Of course this is just my humble opinion.  There about 6,000 expats in Cuenca who would totally disagree with me.


I recommend that future expats visit the links below.




Boquete’s newest B&B – Highly Recommended


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