Life in Panama – it continues to bring surprises and new discoveries

By Rudi Van Enoo

I just can’t help it!!!! I feel compelled to share about life in Panama

I often feel compelled to share some of the unique “Panama experiences” that come our way on a regular basis while doing our ‘thing’ here on the Pacific Coast of Panama.

These unique little vignettes I am talking about may also be special to you when you get the whole impact of them, or it may not. I guess I’ll take my chances on that.  So, here it goes.

I think about what’s so special regarding the little, and sometimes big, surprises that keep showing up.

We have lived here for a few years now, like 3, and the longer we are here the more we realize how much we have grown to love and appreciate the ‘gem’ that we found here. It is worth sharing, me thinks.

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Here is a vignette, or is it more of a gem? Two days ago (this past Friday) I had a dental implant placed in my maxilla to replace a broken front tooth that was beyond repair. The dentist sent me to a first class, state of the art, dental MRI facility in Panama City (1.5 hours from here) to assess the quality of my bone in order to receive an implant ,and to see if I needed a bone graft as well. I was in and out of there in 20 minutes, with a whopping bill of $90 (after my Jubilado discount, of course). Where in the world can you get a full dental MRI for that? This is Panama, I love it.!!

The dental surgeon I went to quoted me $1200 for pulling the remnants of my old tooth out, perform the necessary dental surgery for the receipt of the implant, place the implant, including all the follow-up care and before discount. He also quoted $450 for the crown to be placed after the implant area heals. The total, after discounts, will come to around $1500. I haven’t checked lately but a number of folks have told me that in the U.S. or Canada we are looking at many thousands for a dental implant. Again, this is Panama, I love it.

Oh, and between the few visits before the actual surgery a couple of days ago I broke another tooth, a pre-molar -just an old, old filling and a tiny part of the enamel. I absolutely knew this would mean a crown, been there many times. I know. He looked at it and said no you don’t need a crown, I can repair it.  He then took out the old filling, put in a new ceramic filling, and built up the side that was a little low,and voilá !  I had a perfectly good functioning molar again, without going through another crown. I saved a ton. And the best part is he did it, quickly and without shots, and no pain, and he didn’t even charge me for it. He just threw it in since I have all that other work being done with him. I like that. It shows me something that I think is missing in a lot of places. Nice to find it here.

He practices in the City but twice a week he comes out to the Coronado beach area where we live, and has a full dental/surgical facility here. How handy is that? He is fully bi-lingual and is a master at what he does. One of the reasons I chose him is that a friend and neighbor of ours had about a dozen implants done by him.  Yes, in only two stages and I was very impressed with the care and the results he got.  It was phenomenal. I now have absolutely no qualms having all my dental work done by him. When I went in the other day he put me right in and went to work.  Exactly 40 minutes later I was out the door. He used a small, hand held, state of the art digital x-ray unit to look at the seating of the implant during and after the work. He shared the computer images with me.  They were crisp and clean and very readable.  Yes, very impressive.  I understand that there are a lot of professionals just like him, both in the City but in other centers as well.  You have to look for it.  It does not pop out at you.  Marketing is still in its infancy. That also goes for all other services as well. You have to keep your eyes and ears open and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of people what they have learned.

I really like the honesty, the integrity and gentleness of the Panamanians. To give you another example of that and perhaps another gem? We had a car problem, went to our gentle and goodhearted mechanic who was recommended to us by a friend. He said it was the automatic, diesel engined, transmission.  It burned out. We then went on line to see what it would cost and what it would take to replace the transmission with a new or used one  and the most common comment from the various websites and blogs were that you never want to hear your mechanic say “its your transmission”. It is one of the most costly major repairs on a car. We were quoted somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000  to get a new one. Almost cheaper to buy another car. Yipes, is there another way?

We asked our guy if he could help us with this and he did. He went on a search and found the exact transmission our car needed, 3 years old, low milage, completely intact after a rear end collision which totaled the car but left an undamaged transmission. He got it for $1500 delivered and he charged me $250 to pull out the old one and replace it with this one. We have had 0 problems since. He also gave me a warranty. If the new trans did not function or work out as expected for some reason, he would take it out and get us our money back. That kind of service saved us so much money and if you then include the peace of mind of money back guarantee, does not get much better, does it?

Things like this happen a lot it seems, at least from my perspective. At all times you have to look out to make sure you are not taken advantage of, of course. After all you are the gringo who has money and many people are still very poor here. Yet, I see very little of that ‘taking advantage of the gringo’ mentality. By en large these folks are easy- going, honest, gentle, and helpful. Sure, there are always exceptions, of course, and there are other problems to deal with here as in any country, but overall , I trust their good hearts, and I think the vast majority of Panamanians are really nice and honest.

I also like the professionalism of many of the people you need when you really need them-like good dentists, mechanics, doctors, lawyers, etc. They don’t hide behind their titles and become difficult to reach, like usually happens in the States or Canada.  How often do you visit the doctor or dentist who gives you his /her personal cell number to call anytime?  It’s the norm here.  I have been here long enough now to be able to say with the confidence that comes from personal experience, that there are a great many very talented and educated professionals right close at hand. This is Panama, and I like it.

I have commented on a few of the surprises and discoveries here, but by no means is this complete.  There are so many to talk about and they can’t all fit here, so, it looks like  I will have to continue this at a future date. Stay tuned.


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