Leaving Panama has a bittersweet taste

31/10/2015

panama, panama city, urban living, budget, medical, frustration

We leave Panama for a short stint in the States before heading to the boat and Mexico next week. It's sad to say that Yana and I both are glad to be leaving. The last two months have put such a strain on us that we are washing our hands of them and putting the past behind us.

First off, we have to say that we do like Panama. The people we have met are more than nice and there are a lot of similarities to America while still not feeling like we're in America. The city surprised us in many ways and we found ourselves liking it more than anticipated. We really loved the mountainous region of Boquete in Chiriqui and have every intention of returning there. But here's what killed the last two months for us.

 

Bureaucracy

Everything we read online about having a water birth at home in Panama said it was pretty straightforward. We were certain that the month and a half after Mouth was born would be enough to do the paperwork to travel, and thus our November return flight would be acceptable. What we did not count on was the “new” procedure for certifying home births and getting a Panamanian birth certificate. They would tell us a date to come and pick it up, we'd show up, and there would be some excuse and another date to return. Rinse and repeat several times. What was supposed to take 2-3 weeks took 5. During one week towards the end I was at the Tribunal Electoral building four times in five days. We got the birth certificate four days ago. Not near enough time to get a U.S. Passport.

The U.S. Embassy in Panama was even less helpful than the birth certificate officials. Without a special written form of the birth certificate (called a Copia Integra; they will not accept the normal birth certificate), they refused to issue Mouth a passport; even an emergency one. So we were left biting our nails until less than a week before our return flight not sure if we would be able to leave. The Embassy gave us a temporary child's passport for Mouth to return to the States. We will have to re-apply for his real one once we get to Mexico and use the U.S. Embassy in Hermosillo, Mexico.

 

Emergency Surgery

Doodle has never been sick. Ever. As of this post his total cost for healthcare is $75, which we paid for a well child doctors visit a couple months after he was born. Having a sick child is never fun for any parent. Having a child that needs emergency surgery to save his life while in a foreign country is absolute terror. Thankfully, once we found out Mouth had pyloric stenosis, it was a little more comforting. Yes, he would have surgery and that would cause some anxiety. No, we don't have insurance in Panama so it's all out of pocket. But I also had the same surgery when I was an infant (it's genetic; I told Yana to blame me), so we knew it was a problem with a well-known solution.

In the end he came home, with a scar that will likely imitate the one I've grown up with. His $12,000 hospital bill put a dent in our funds that we'll have to replenish. So this next year we are nixing a few big ticket things we were considering (WSOP for Yana and an Alaskan cruise). He can pay us back in extra boat chores. Everything is going to sparkle for the next 15 years!

 

$$$$$$

Living in Boquete was manageable and it looks like we were spending a few hundred dollars less there than we were in Mexico (this of course includes things we aren't paying for in Panama right now like a sailing yacht in its marina slip). Living in Panama City is wildly expensive. We've paid more each month in rent here than any other housing we have ever had in any state in America. This 3-bedroom apartment on the sixth floor costs us $1,350 per month. Because we eat natural foods, the grocery bill was also the highest. We rarely ever left the store for less than $100, going every 3-4 days. We could afford to live here if we didn't have a house in the States and a boat in Mexico, but it would be tight. For that reason we don't think we will be spending long period of times in the city when we return to Panama. Other areas like Boquete, Bocas Del Toro, as well as the San Blas and La Perla islands have much more to offer our family without the luxury pricing. We have no idea how the poor people who live in the barrios of PTY are able to eat and live in a healthy environment. We assume they don't. They are the ones we see at the grocery store carting off giant bags of rice, beans, and shelf-stable cartons of milk. No meats or veggies. We are surely counting our blessings.

So we will return to Panama. Maybe not next summer (gotta get some summer sailing/snorkeling/fishing in), but definitely within a year or so after that. I am having serious conversations with the wifey about sailing the boat down and possibly even transiting the Panama Canal and she is actually conversing back on the topic. (Progress!)

 

Until then...Panama...hasta luego!

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