Good morning. It's the week of Thanksgiving and while the stores here in Panama are preparing for Black Friday (Panama started participating last year) I'm going through this week's emails and preparing to answer your questions. We've got some great questions this time around too. I invite you guys to keep the questions coming so I have something to write about next Monday. I'll answer questions coming in from the comments on this blog, the comments on www.PanamaForReal.com, questions from our Facebook page, and ones I get straight to my inbox.
So, let's do this!
Albania asked (via Facebook):
“Do you know where I can take Mandarin classes? I communicate with a lot of Chinese people on my job and I think it would really help if I learned Mandarin.”
"Excellent question, Albania. I know you're Panamanian, so finding a Spanish-Mandarin class is most likely what you're looking for. I found the following website that lists several classes. For our English-speaking readers, you'd need to contact them and find out if they offer English-Mandarin classes. You'll probably find that some will offer private lessons as they probably don't have a large enough customer base to offer regular classes in English. Here's that website I mentioned:
Hope this helps."
Greg asked (via email):
"I am glad to have found your blog. I've just spent 12 years in Tulsa and now reside in Ft. Lauderdale. I am looking at retiring to Panama in 2014. My wife and I are in our early 50's. I am researching Coronado as it offers us beach and golf options.
"I am curious if you have an opinion on other areas that we should visit? Our plan is to live in Panama for 6 to 8 months a year and then stay in the U.S. the rest of the year. I am open to suggestions on area etc.
"Also, do you have any idea what the cost of living is like in Coronado?"
"Thanks so much for reaching out to me and for checking out the site. I feel like I'm reading your email and looking into the mirror. I was born in Tulsa and grew up in the Fort Lauderdale area. I'm glad to hear you guys are headed this way.
"Coronado does sound like the place for you. I always call it the "Furnished Home" of beach lifestyle options in Panama. Expats have already moved into Coronado and set it up for you, so adjusting should be fairly easy. If you want to be near the beach and need to be near a golf course, that's probably the best place for you...if you can afford it. It's not for anyone retiring on a tight budget.
The beach in Coronado
"Pedasi is my favorite beach area, but it's a small town with no nearby golf course (I think the closest one is in Chitre, about an hour away). So for you, again, Coronado is probably best.
"If you have any interest in living in the mountains, you have that option too. I know a couple living in Altos del Maria, a mountain community very close to Coronado. The husband is a surfer, so being near the beach is very important, but the wife wanted to live in the mountains. I think it's only about a 20-minute drive down the mountain to get to the main highway, then maybe 15-20 minutes to the Coronado area. So that's a possibility too. When I met this couple, they were in Coronado having lunch, that's how close their home is to the beach.
At one of the beaches near Pedasi
"I have a realtor friend in Coronado, who knows all the best places in the area, and I think might actually own a place in the Golf Resort there. If you're interested in making contact, just let me know.
"If you want to read more about Altos del Maria, you can check out their website at www.altosdelmaria.com. I'll be headed that way soon with Panama For Real. So a full report and video are on their way. We'll be headed to Coronado and Pedasi too at some point in the future.
"As for the cost of living in Coronado, it's been awhile since I've researched it, but when I visited there last, exactly one year ago as it was in November of 2012, I put the monthly budget for a couple living in Coronado at $2,900. That was based off a realtor telling me you could rent a place for $1,400 per month. I set the grocery costs at $400. So your rent could be much higher than $1,400 and your food costs could be higher or lower. The $2,900 covered everything from entertainment to electricity.
"One of the great things about Coronado is you can live in the nearby towns of Gorgona, Chame, Punta Chame, San Carlos, or Las Lajas if you don't want to live in the actual town of Coronado (might save you a few bucks), and you'd still have access to all the restaurants and gringo get-togethers that take place in Coronado.
"I know we have a lot of readers living in the Coronado area, so feel free to chime in on the comments section below this post."
Missie (via Facebook) asked:
"Hello, Mr. Powers. We are a homeschooling family. I am curious about the expat communities and homeschooling. There is very little information on the Internet. Most pages/groups/etc. have had little or no posts in several years. I'm sure there ARE homeschoolers. I am just unsure how to get in touch with them.
"Also, my children are very active in softball and baseball here. Do they do much of that in Panama? If so, what locations should we be looking at to get them involved?
"Thank you so much for your help."
"Great questions. I don't know a whole lot about the homeschooling situation here, but I know that it does exist...and a lot of families are doing it. In most of the small towns, the expats with kids either homeschool their kids or do half days at the local public school, then homeschool them the second half of the day.
"I've done a little bit of research for you and from what I understand, there is no set homeschooling program in Panama. So what people do is just find the program they're comfortable with in the States or whatever country they're from, and implement it here. That's probably why you're not finding much about it online.
"A new Facebook friend, Amanda, told me her family uses www.keystoneschoolonline.com. She said that's a widely used program, along with its sister program www.k12.com.
"Amanda also mentioned that what she loves about homsechooling her kids is that her kids have the option to take so many classes you won't find in schools here (or in many other locations). Plus, since kids learn at different speeds and levels, if you have a child who is advanced or falls a little bit behind, homeschooling programs give you the opportunity to adapt for that.
In Pedasi, some expat send their kids to this school half the day,
then homeschool them the rest of the day.
"My only concern with homeschooling is that you might not be giving your kids the chance to really get to know their Panamanian neighbors. So if none of their day is spent in the Panamanian schools, I'd at least try to get them involved in some other type of class or program that will help them learn Spanish and get to know their new Panamanian neighbors.
"Softball and baseball shouldn't be a problem. Those are popular sports here too. Your kids could even play American football here. As far as what locations you should live in, to get them involved, that all depends on what lifestyle you're looking for. We need to discuss this further, probably one-on-one as it can be a long conversation, but in most places you'll find these sports available.
"Thanks again for the great question and for giving me the opportunity to answer it."
Steve asked (via his comment in the PFR website):
"Would like to know a few things. Where is an established beach town with expats? Also, would like to know what the rainy season is like near the beach. Does Panama have an area that is considered dry? One more question, I'm a vegetarian. Can I find vegetarian items at most stores, or are there any vegetarian stores, or restaurants in Panama?"
"Thanks for commenting and checking out the site. I'd say the most established beach town (with expats) would be Coronado, hands down (wow, this Q&A session is becoming the Coronado show). Rainy season near the beach is still rainy season, but it comes and goes. It's a lot like South Florida weather. The south-east coast of the Azuero Peninsula is considered the dry zone. Some people claim that's not true, but I stayed in Pedasi last year, during the rainy season (for 3 days) and it didn't rain once.
Amador Causeway is definitely not in the driest part of the country
"About your vegetarian question. You can find fresh markets all over Panama, every day of the week. So eating well on the cheap is very easy here. Plus, places like Fruteria Mimi (in Costa del Este, San Francisco, and in El Cangrejo) have great vegetarian options. Even the regular supermarkets will have what you're looking for. Punta Paitilla has some great Kosher markets, which could be good options as well, like Super K inside of Multicentro Mall. Most restaurants will have vegetarian sections on the menu. You should have no trouble living in Panama has a vegetarian."
Fresh produce is easy to find anywhere in Panama
I invite any vegetarians living in Panama to provide some feedback for Steve.
Louis asked (via his comment in the PFR website, after reading my post on ordering at a Panama McDonald's):
"My question is, when you are in panama, why eat at McDonald's, Fridays, Bennigan's, or KFC, etc., when Mi Ranchito, Costa Azul, Jimmy's, Bon Profit, Balboa Yacht Club, etc. are right there and have great Panamanian food? I usually eat corvina (fish) most of the time with fried yuca."
"Ha, great point. I have 4 kids, remember? And I have to admit, I do get tired of eating only Panamanian food. I love Panamanian food, but every once in awhile I need a burger or ribs or chicken wings. It's the kids who love McDonald's. We mostly only go to KFC so the kids can play in the play area. It's the best place to take them during the rainy season. Thanks for your question, Louis."
Well, that's it for this session of Q&A Monday. I think I need a stiff drink after those question, haha. Only kidding. Keep 'em coming.
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