Category Archives: Press

Las Des Ubicadas

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So fun!  I wrote an article called A Born Again Panamanian and did English translation work for a new, stylish women’s magazine here in Panamá called Des Ubicadas.  Here is a pic of my family, the magazine cover and article text.

A Born Again Panamanian

They say everything happens for a reason.  What started as an accident turned into an opportunity to embrace change and create something new.

At 91 years old, Dad doesn’t leave the house often. Yesterday he woke up early and announced he was ready to go home. Sometimes this happens; he gets confused and doesn’t understand he is already home. Perfect time to take him out for a spin.  I drive as Mom changes the dial to her favorite lite jazz station.  I don’t know which I dislike more, lite jazz or salsa, but I’m having to  adjust to both — and plenty of other new things — now that I live in Panama.

Even though I’d visited several times since my parents relocated to Panama 6 years ago, I had never considered moving away from California, my sister and friends, or even the United States.  My parents left Panama when I was 2 years old so that my mother could pursue her dream of becoming a medical doctor.  She was successful and fulfilled, in huge part to Dad’s relentless support and motivation.  My sister Michelle and I enjoyed a comfortable and safe childhood growing up in St. Louis, Missouri.  We both went to excellent universities and completed post-graduate programs.  For 38 years, I led an incredibly blessed life abroad.

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When mom fell and fractured her hip in April, I immediately flew here to be with her.  Coincidentally, I was looking for looking for work at the time since I had just completed a one-year contract as an attorney at Google.  Yes, working at Google was interesting, but eventually my experience became the same as with every other corporate job I’d ever had — totally boring.  Plus, due to the long commute, every day was a long day.  I was in the rat race and wanted out badly.  So I finally gave myself permission to create my ideal life.  I would  only consider work that appealed to me.  I would stop doing what I think I “should” do and start doing what I wanted to do.

Interestingly, I returned to Panama for the same reason my parents left it — to follow their hearts and create a better life for themselves and our family.  I’ve returned to create a better life for myself, one filled with family and healthy interdependence rather than over-independence, stiff competition and stress.  One could say I returned to the place I was born to be born again.  I appreciate Panama now more than I ever have before because it offers me new opportunities, a chance for new ways of being.  I’m getting to the know the culture I was never a part of before.  My Spanish is improving tremendously.  Together my mother and I are building a business.  At the same time, I’m exploring my interests in foreign exchange investing, writing and teaching.   My transition is taking place slowly but surely; Mom’s lite jazz bothers me less and less.  All in all, it’s a good life.

Read more about Laura’s life in Panama at http://www.panamaguy.wordpress.com.

My Interview with ExpatsBlog.com

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Here is an interview I did for ExpatsBlog.com, a very cool site featuring expat blogs from around the world.

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Where are you originally from? 

I was born in Panama but we moved away when I was only 2 years old. I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and moved to California to attend Stanford for college. I lived in California until I moved to Panama.

In which country and city are you living now?
Panama City, Panama

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I moved here in June 2012 and right now I don’t have any plans to move back to the States or to another country.

Panama Guy

Why did you move and what do you do?
In April 2012 my mom fell and fractured her hip; immediately I flew to Panama to be with her. Coincidentally, I was looking for looking for work at the time since I had just completed a one-year contract as an attorney at Google. Yes, working at Google was interesting, but eventually my experience became the same as with every other corporate job I’d ever had — totally boring. Plus, due to the long commute, every day was a long day. I was in the rat race and wanted out badly. And so, after a few weeks of job hunting, I finally gave myself permission to create my ideal life. I would only consider work that appealed to me. I would stop doing what I think I “should” do and start doing what I wanted to do.

Everything happens for a reason. But for Mom’s accident, I would not have considered moving to Panama. Without her support, I would not have had the courage to create my ideal life which now includes starting my own business, becoming a professor and teaching myself to trade foreign exchange.

Did you bring family with you?
Yes! My dog Billy and my cat Maven.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The transition has been fun and challenging at the same time. Since most things are different — the language, the climate, the customs and the people — it really forces me to take a look at my expectations and consider compromising when they’re not met.

Panama Guy

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I’m lucky that my parents have a number of long-time family friends and new friends in Panama. Through them I have been successful in meeting others. Expats groups and other interest groups have been really good for me to participate in as well.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats? 
The best things to do are outdoor activities like going to the beach, cycling and visiting areas outside of the City. I love, love, love the beautiful Olympic size swimming pool at Power Club Howard; I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes to swim to check that out. I would also encourage folks to visit Bocas and San Blas since those areas have some of the best beaches in the country.

Panama Guy

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I really think Panama is a country of possibilities. I enjoy all of the opportunities available to innovative and motivated people committed to creating something new. I enjoy my new found freedom and love the warm weather. I was always so cold in San Francisco and here I wear sundresses and sandals all the time, which I love. I also appreciate being close to my family.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
The cost of living is lower than San Francisco, but perhaps not as low in the City as some might imagine Latin America to be.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The biggest negative for me is the traffic. Right now, they’re building a subway in Panama which means a lot of the streets are either closed or blocked off. This leads to frustrating traffic jams at most times of the day and in most parts of the City.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Give yourself time to adjust. I’ve only been here about 5 months so far and think I might not be fully settled in for about one year. Also, learn Spanish. It will make living here a more robust and fun experience.

Panama Guy

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I write my blog as a way to process my experience here. My agenda is not to champion Panama over the States or, on the contrary, to use is as a platform to whine about things I don’t like. I’m committed to transparency and to sharing my thoughts and feelings in an honest way.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I respond to all comments on my blog so that’s a great place to contact me. http://www.panamaguy.wordpress.com

“Litter Did You Know”

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Billy, Maven and I were featured in the San Francisco SPCA blog “Litter Did You Know.”  Here is the article:

Billy and Maven

Last July, kind of on the spur of the moment, I decided to adopt a dog. I had a million things to do that weekend, but found myself scouring adoption sites and making several visits to local San Francisco shelters. I had never owned a dog as an adult but longed for companionship. I also wanted to take advantage of my employer’s generous policy in allowing dogs at work.

I knew I had to adopt a small dog based on my condo building requirements. But other than that, I really didn’t know what to look for. When I conferred with the SPCA volunteers, they suggested I look for a dog that is confident. So off I went, meeting various dogs and gauging their warmth and confidence as best as possible. At first, I totally overlooked Billy because he was so small. But since two different volunteers advocated for him when I came for a second visit Saturday afternoon, I went ahead and took their advice getting to know him.

Well, as soon as I met this 8-pound Terrier-Chihuahua mix, I loved him. While other dogs either didn’t want to meet me when I went into the room or didn’t seem to know I was there, Billy jumped right into my lap! Billy came to the San Francisco SPCA via SF Animal Care and Control. Shy and scared, he seemed to have a difficult time warming up to new people. As it turns out, he was holding out for his perfect match.

Because it was too late to start the adoption process that day, I was told to come back for Billy on Sunday. Excited, I woke up early, cleaned up my place and headed back to the SPCA only to find that Billy was not there. He had already been selected for an off-site adoption event at the Divisadero Farmer’s Market. In true movie-romance fashion, I chased down the “love of my life” and adopted him that morning.

Billy now enjoys the good life, relaxing in the comfort of my lap at work during the day and keeping me company at home. We are almost always together. In fact, I leave him alone so infrequently that I started to feel bad when I did leave. To alleviate my guilt, I thought about getting Billy a cat.

And then this happened…

A couple of weeks ago, as Billy and I headed to yoga via McAllister Park, we passed a few construction workers. “Chuey,” one man called out trying to get Billy’s attention. I didn’t stop since people are always stopping Billy, him being so cute and all. “Where did you get your dog?” the man asked me. At this point I stopped walking because he was speaking to me, not Billy, and I realized that Billy knew this man.

Short story long — this random man, Memo, is the boyfriend of Billy’s previous owner. To prove it, he showed me a little video of Billy on his flip phone! Billy ran away one day from his Treasure Island home without his collar on. He’s actually 2 years older than I thought and used to live with a cat. I felt really bad for Memo and his girlfriend and told him so several times. Memo was totally reasonable, but clearly felt bad about having lost Billy.

As a consolation, I told him that Billy has a great life — that I’m always with him, that he goes to work with me, and that he is loved. He asked me how much I would take for him. Of course, he’s not for sale.

A few days later, I thought about my encounter with Memo and revisited my idea of adopting a cat. Learning that Billy used to live with a cat was a great gift in that it validated my original hunch.

So now Billy and I live with a cat. Maven (formerly Princess Peaches) came home with us from the SPCA a couple of weeks ago. She quickly got used to her new home and started warming up to Billy right away. After just one night of co-habitation, they were both sleeping in my bed. They are very good sleep and nap partners. I look forward to lots of good times with them both.

You are loved,
Maven, Billy and Laura