Eight years ago my husband and I decided to go to Panama on vacation. We mainly wanted to come because it offered warm weather, which was of great interest to us. While staying at our then chosen resort we met a nice couple who had just purchased a lot in the mountain community of Altos del Maria. They were so excited and before we knew it they had made arrangements for us to travel to this lovely area, located close to Coronado, Panama. We were awestruck with its beauty upon arrival. The community was much more than we could have imagined. We felt like we were in a National Park. Believe it or not we bought a house there in four days and decided we were ready to begin a new adventure in this beautiful country. We knew it would be different from our comfortable way of life in Virginia, but we were ready.
Things in Panama at that time were very different from what they are today. There were few stores of any kind, thus requiring us to travel to Panama City once or twice a week to buy all the things we needed to set up house keeping. Driving the Panamanian Highway was tricky at that time. It was not the nice, widened highway that it is today. There were only a few stores to choose from in nearby Coronado. At the time there was only one grocery store, one hardware store, very few restaurants, no medical facilities and no one spoke English. Getting anyone to understand what we were saying or needed was taxing. Today Coronado and other nearby communities offer anything one might need and are available close at hand. There are great restaurants, four grocery stores, hardware, general, shoe, car repair, health food stores, eye specialists, dentists, doctors, a good medical clinic, veterinarians, English speaking churches and so much more.
Best of all, many Panamanians now speak English. Everything has improved in so many ways. So different from when we first arrived. Entering and exiting the country from Tocumen Airport has also changed. It was very small at first and I must admit quite confusing. Now, it is large (and still growing) and is the hub for Central and South America. European countries as well as the US and Canada are now easily accessible.
With so many people coming to Panama from all over the world, the Panamanian people are able to find jobs and improve their way of life. People, who were barely scrapping by eight years ago, are now able to do some of the things they would have only dreamed about in years past. Homes are being built that many can now afford to purchase. Some of the older homes are being repainted and some are expanding in size. Schools are improving and many children now have bicycles and other toys they never had before. It’s wonderful being a part of the change here. There are so many people coming from all over the world to this flourishing country. We recently read that Panamanians are among the happiest people in the world, and we must admit that it’s contagious.
With all the changes this country and its people are experiencing, the people remain close to family. They especially appreciate and show respect to their elders.
The transportation system throughout the country has drastically improved as well over the last two years. For years, the only buses available were the “Diablo Rojos”. They are old school buses painted in loud colors. The government has now replaced most of those with modern, safer buses. A new subway system is also being constructed. Things here are ever changing. We are so thankful to have the opportunity of being a part of this wonderful country and would encourage others to do the same.