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Why did I think this would be easy?

May 12, 2013

The answer is because I am an eternal optimist.  That is a good thing because otherwise I would still be in Kansas or Boston or Atlanta. IMG_2882 If you are considering moving overseas -even for a few months, or possibly especially for a few months -remember that not all overseas moves are the same!

When I moved to Granada, Nicaragua last year for seven months I found it to be fairly easy even though it was my first experience with living overseas in a Latin American country for any length of time.  I found an apartment in just a few days of searchingIMG_1507 and quickly met a few people who were helpful and supportive. It was easy to get around the city by walking and taxis were plentiful and inexpensive.IMG_2891

Panama City is a completely different experience.  It is huge and somewhat difficult to get around because of the ongoing construction for the subway system which goes through the middle of town disrupting the main thoroughfares – Via Espana and Calle 50. IMG_2895 I spent two weeks searching all day, every day, for an apartment to rent for four months.  I preferred to be in El Cangrejo or Obarrio which are in the center of things, but was open to Bella Vista or San Francisco. I walked the streets (and I mean streets as the sidewalks are often torn up or cars are parked on them so you are forced to be in the street) looking for “se aquilar” signs (for rent). It was impossible to get a taxi.  I answered internet ads, I read the paper, I looked at Craig’s List, I asked everyone I met, I asked my friends if they knew anyone in Panama who knew anyone who knew… etc. It was exhausting and frustrating. This was particularly hard because I did it using my poor Spanish skills. Approaching people you do not know -or even worse, talking to them on the cell phone – and asking in Spanish if they have a furnished apartment to rent for 4 months was a challenge – for both of us. Almost no one will rent for 4 months, for any price.IMG_2903

The good news is that I found a fabulous apartment in El Cangrejo and the landlord is Canadian so there was no language barrier.  Fortunately for us the tenants wanted to move out immediately so I was able to leave my rented room and move in within a couple days. My roommate, Sharon, arrived a couple of days later and we are now settled in our new place, right in the heart of the city. (see the red sign below)IMG_2902  How did I find this place? By walking the streets, seeing a sign indicating a rental, and standing there on the sidewalk and calling a stranger.IMG_2940

Different cities and cultures are different even if they are all Central America.  My advice: never generalize and always be prepared to be persistent and optimistic. You know the saying “pack half the clothes you think you will need and take twice the money”? IMG_2907 2b2 To adapt it: when looking for housing in a large, modern Latin American city be prepared to spend twice the time and money that you would in a smaller, less developed country.IMG_2937 It was not easy!IMG_2896 - Copy It can be hard to remember that the reason you are doing this is to challenge yourself and use your Spanish!  (classes start this week and they are only one block away from the apartment)


From → Panama

  1. Hi Marty! Glad you FINALLY found a place! Sounds like it is the one! YIKES!!


  2. Harry Wheeler permalink

    Glad your back on-line. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your adventures.


  3. Linda Flannery permalink

    Congrats on finding your great new digs! Enjoy your adventure!

    Linda Flannery


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