So, why Panama? Why Pedasi, Panama? It has been a 3 year journey to this point. Neither of us ever dreamed that we would be living outside the United States, especially a country with a different language and culture. So, how did we come to this decision?
Both of us have always loved the beach, but we knew we couldn’t afford to live near here in California. Mikkel was basically retired and Connie had a few more years before retiring as well. Mikkel started thinking about moving outside the United States. One day he met a man living in Auburn, CA who already had a home in David, Panama, but planning to move to Pedasi and possibly build a retreat for pastors along with working with the local people. He invited us to come and visit him where he was renting a house in Pedasi for a year while exploring the possibilities. We thought, if it was God’s will, that we might be interested in being caretakers of the retreat. So after a few meetings, we said goodbye to this man and his wife as they flew down to Panama, and started making plans to visit in February 2012 during “carnival”. We bought our plane tickets soon after, but in December 2011, we received an email simply stating “will not be in Pedasi when you come”. That’s the last we heard from this man.
Well, that did not stop us, since we had already bought the non-refundable plane tickets. Now we would have to find places to stay in both Panama City and Pedasi, and transportation. After a lot of research, we had reservations for a hostel (bed and breakfast) in both cities as well as transportation which included taxis, buses, and a car rental. The adventure began, and what an adventure it was!
When we arrived in Panama, February 2012, we spent the first weekend in Panama City, visiting Miraflores (Panama Canal locks & museum), Casco Viejo (old town), and hiking through a national park in the heart of the city. The next 10 days we stayed in Pedasi, via bus and then rental car. Five of those days were during Carnival. Everyone we met were so friendly and helpful. Pedasi is a small town of 2000 people, but they certainly put on a grand party during Carnival. We were invited by one of the committee members who was the owner of the hostel where we stayed to be part of the parade for one of the queens. During the day we would be blasted by water from the children shooting super soaker guns at us and water trucks. Then we danced in the streets and watched fireworks at night until 2am. We met so many friendly people, both Panamanians and expats from different countries. One night we came across a couple visiting from Placerville, CA (about 25 miles from where we live right now). When Carnival was over, this town became a quiet sleepy little village again. There are several beautiful beaches and countryside to see nearby. In town we discovered an ice cream shop, a great little Italian restaurant (Pasta y Vino), and “Dolceria Yeli”, owed by an 80+ yr. old woman who bakes several cakes every morning – 60 cents to $1. It was hard to leave Pedasi because we felt so at home and had made some good friends. But back to Panama City we went returning the rental car and taking the bus. There we attended Crossroads Bible Church which is English-speaking, although the songs were sung in both English and Spanish. It reminded us very much like our church in the states, Auburn Grace Community, and we vowed if we had the opportunity, we would return. Walked along the Causeway from beginning to end and back. When it was time to come back to Auburn, we knew we would be back and started further research in perhaps living in Panama someday, asking God to open the doors if this was His will.
Next blog: “Our 2nd Trip to Panama”