Tag Archives: Panama ex-pat

Panama in the pandemic

It’s weird that we have spent most of our time in Panama in a pandemic. But, we’ve been extremely lucky to be safe, healthy and employed.   

The vaccine is slower to roll out here than in the U.S. but while we wait (me more impatiently then Jeff) I’m reflecting at how much different things are now vs. a year ago. 

Panama had one of the strictest quarantines in the world. The below chart (taken from a site called Our World in Data https://ourworldindata.org/) shows the level of restrictions compared to the US.

For a week there in November we were living life free and easy compared to the US.

At first it seemed like no big deal

It started out the same here as everywhere. We thought it would be over in two weeks.

Here we are learning the pool was closed (or auditioning for most overly dramatic expats ever). Imagine our faces if we had known it would be a bit longer than two weeks.

Alas, the pool has closed. We are tortured.
Not sure why I cared about the gym closing since I never used it.

When they started boarding up the stores we got a little nervous. Would there be looting? Riots? Toilet paper shortage?

There weren’t any riots, looting, or even toilet paper shortages.

And then came Women and Men days

When they divided the week up into women and men days we became concerned. When we found out you could only go out for two assigned hours on your day we freaked out.

Wait what?

Based on the last digit of my passport and being female, I had 8:30-10:30 M,W,F.  Jeff had 7:30-9:30 Tue and  Thur only. For once, being a woman came with some advantages. Men having less hours than women is probably whey they expected rioting.   

What happened if you were transgender or non binary? Sadly, you might be harassed or arrested. 

What happened if you were out at the wrong time or day? You could be fined or even arrested.

How did they know if you were out at the wrong time? There were police checking your documents to make sure it was the correct time. If you went to a grocery store at the wrong time they would not let you inside.

But if living in another country teaches you anything, it’s to be adaptable. We started having our food delivered online.

Remember when we washed all our food before it entered the house? Still never quite figured out how to wash a pineapple.

Since we were only allowed to go grocery shopping during our two hours on our day/times out I walked to the grocery store, the far away grocery store. 

We thought we’d get fit during the pandemic

In our spare time,  which was all the hours, we climbed up and down the fire escape. 

Then an email went out to the entire building saying no one was allowed out on the fire escape unless it was a declared emergency.    

No problem, we had long hallways. a parking garage and balcony .

Who wouldn’t want to workout in a parking garage in 90 degree heat? And it was only 38 times back and forth on the balcony to equal a mile.

I even bought a Door Gym. 

This worked great we used it every day and got super fit. hahahaha. Not. I tried it once, was afraid I’d break the door and poke an eye out.

We only went a little nutty

Soon we found that exercise was overrated. There is some research that shows that exercise helps to alliviate stress, but we seemed to be just fine.

What do you mean I shouldn’t turn my video on during a work zoom call?.
I did not throw this monitor at this tree, only because I didn’t have a computer monitor.
Do you think that bird on the balcony will be my friend?
This bug will be my new pet. I shall name him Clyde and cherish him forever.

Buying these highlighters were probaby the highlight of the pandemic for me (excuse the pun). I spent an entire day doing a photo shoot with them.

They’re so pretty.

Alcohol was completely banned

Worst than not beling allowed out of our apartment building? Alcohol sales were banned throughout the country.  Yes, banned!  Why? We think they wanted people to spend money on food not booze, and it would help keep people from getting drunk and breaking the quarantine laws.

Shoplifting never seemed so appealing.

After our wine and gin was depleted we had to go into stealth mode. The local mini mart still had a healthy stock of liquor.   Sure they had signs saying they couldn’t sell it. But Jeff is nice and good at Spanish. He talked them into selling us a secret bottle or two.  

In theory you were not even allowed to drink alcohol in your own home.

That was one law we had to break.

We had friends to break the alcohol law with

Lucky for us, the only friends we have in the entire country, happen to live in our building. We could hang out with them without breaking quarantine.

Rolf and Samuel were friends before the pandemic, but in the last year they have become like family.   We have spend countless evenings, holidays, and many bottles of illegally purchased alcohol together.   

Can you see all my teeth or should I smile more?
Their balcony is way windier than ours.

Not only are they great people they are fantastic cooks and hosts.

Dinner at their apartment includes champagne, beautiful table settings and professionally plated food.

Dinner at our apartment is a more informal affair.

Oh wait you need a fork? Yeah we don’t have any clean ones.

As things got better, parks opened up. I was able to walk out here on women’s day. I was also lucky that my assigned time was early in the morning before work started and before it got too hot outside.

Finally, after months of only being outside seperately, they lifted men and women days and we could venture out together.

Sheryl: Why are you standing so close to me?
Jeff: Really? Another selfie?

So yes, we came to Panama and then were in lockdown for a year. But, we’ve stayed healthy and employed, been able to Zoom with our family and friends, and have friends here.

You would think I wouldn’t complain now that the pool is open again and I can just sit here while I wait for the vaccine. But I do complain…a lot.

Restrictions have lifted but the vaccine is slow to rollout . Currently to be eligible you have to be sixty and above.

What’s next

We are venturing out slowly and safely. And to answer the question of what’s next? We really don’t know. Our #1 priority is to get vaccinated and see our families. After that we hope to return to Panama and do the trip we planned pre-pandemic. So we’ll see. In the meantime we continue to wait for the vaccine here in Panama City

Jeff: Look at this view. Enjoy it and be patient.

Sheryl: Hurry up with the damn vaccine already!!!!!!!

Limited water – Maximum freakout

Water Shortage Panama City

Carnival is a big four-day weekend/party in Panama and in a lot of Central and South America. But, in Panama, the biggest festivals occur outside the city. As the last long weekend before school starts again (it’s summer break here right now) many people take advantage of the long four day weekend and head out of town.

Oh darn, all these cars are leaving the city?

We decided to stay in town, hang out and enjoy crossing the streets without fear of getting hit.

There are no cars anywhere. I’m using this crosswalk ironically.

Saturday started off well enough. We got an email from our landlord, but it was in Spanish. Who wants to translate something that long on a Saturday?

And then I tried to wash dishes and no water came out of the faucet. It seemed like a good time to read that email.

Our first translation was that the water was being turned off during the above times. I was appalled, how could they do that? They were going to turn the water off for three, two hour periods a day? No water for 6 hours every day for three days?

And then, we put it through google translate. Turns out for three days the water would be turned off EXCEPT during the above time. Seemed like they were taking advantage of people being away from the city to fix the water system.

Obviously, there was only one thing to do….panic! And go out to lunch. The restaurant didn’t have any water either, but they did have wine and free bottled water.

Jeff: Calm down. This is fun.

How can I fit about 80 of these in my purse?

Next, we went out and bought three gallons of bottled water and a bucket. When the water went back on I filled up everything I could.

You can’t have enough random classes of water sitting around.
Jeff: You are overdoing it.
Sheryl: You will thank me when the water never goes back on, and you have to shower with the coffee pot!
In case we have to flush the toilet!

I understood in theory that this is still more water than much of the world had. In many places, there is no clean water, and/or no running water. I knew that…in theory. But it didn’t stop me from freaking out.

Sheryl: Day one of the water shortage – I’m so thirsty.
Jeff: Drink the water you put in the fridge or the bottled water.
Sheryl: No, I’m saving it.

On day 2 I started OK. There was water in the morning and some in the early afternoon, but, when it went off again, I started to freak out. Jeff knew there was only one thing to calm me down, a chance to take photos of doors.

look, pretty blue ones.

We headed out to Casco Viejo, a beautiful historic part of the city that dates back to the 1,600’s. The colonial architecture is amazing, there are cool restaurants and rooftop bars, and most importantly, lots of doors.

Let me just take thirty photos of each door.
oh look,, a purple one.
Here’s Jeff casually walking by for an Instagram photo.

We also looked around some ruins.

This was a convent in the 1600s.
Instagram version: We love historical things.
Reality: I think people have been peeing in here since the 1600s.
Just going to practice a little river dancing here.

Once the sun went down we realized we needed some water, and maybe a cocktail, so we headed over to a rooftop bar where we tried to look cool even though we were decades older than everyone else in the bar.

Look at how cool and unconcerned I am that THERE IS NO WATER IN THE ENTIRE CITY!

Then I decided to take a cool photo against this plant wall. These walls are all over Panama City. They look super cool and Instagrammable.

Turns out this one was fake plastic plants that were scratchy when you leaned against them.

When we got home the water was back on and stayed on for the rest of the week.

Ahhh, everything is back to normal. I’ve grown as a person and learned how to cope with inconveniences. I’ll never freak out again.

And then this morning we saw that the water will be shut off again at midnight and be out for possibly 48 hours.

Quick, fill up every container, go to the store, get more water, I’m going to need two buckets and a personal water tank. Start digging a well!