Buena Vista in the Chiriqui Highlands of Panama
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Buena Vista, Chiriquí is Just Our Little Slice of Heaven

Last Updated on September 2, 2020 by Retire in Panama

buenavista1This week Oscar and Megan sat down for another expat interview with their good friend, David, to interview him about what it is like to live in Buena Vista, Panama. Buena Vista is located in the Chiriquí Highlands. It is situated just 30 minutes south of Volcan, and 30 minutes north of Bugaba. The town has lovely fresh weather year round, much like Volcan or Boquete, but with less fierce winds in the dry season and no bitter cold nights. From David’s deck, you can see the entire pacific coastline, even though it would take about one hour’s drive to reach the ocean. Check out the gorgeous view we captured in these photos.

David is 72 years young. He was born and raised in Central Valley, California, and raised two kids there. He retired in California and moved to Panama in 2017 with his partner, Silvia. His career as a master gardener has drawn the attention of the local school in his Panamanian community. Silvia and David have always been people that give back, and now they get to do that for the kids in their new community. David helped create a beautiful school garden, while teaching the students how to grow their own food. He also has lots of experience teaching kids the incredible capacities of a dutch oven and some hot coals. See below for pictures of David giving a cooking lesson to Oscar’s son.

Oscar: What made you interested in Panama?
Buena Vista in the Chiriqui Highlands of Panama
David: I had researched for 3-4 years and I found a website that has research on every country, broken down into about 50 different categories, such as cost of living, climate, culture, stability of government, etc. I think it cost about $100 to join, but you can enter what you’re looking for and it will give you a list of countries best suited for you. My list was Panama, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Uruguay. We just happened to go to an International Living conference first and at that conference we signed up for Oscar’s tour.

(QuickBack Story: In 2017, Oscar partnered with our Panama health insurance expert, Magda, who is a regular speaker at Panama’s International Living Conferences, to lead a group tour around Chiriquí . At that conference, Oscar met David and Silvia and invited them to come on the tour, which is when they saw their dream home in Buena Vista, where they live today.)
I was looking for a moderate climate because the climate I came from was so extreme, hot and cold, so this is perfect weather for me.

Oscar: Can you tell us more about this area and how you chose to live here?

David: When we saw this place on the tour, it kind of chose us. It was the kind of thing where you just know when you’re home. We were out on the balcony out here and we said this is where we need to be. We lucked out because it turned out to be so perfect for us here in the Chiriquí  highlands. To me, I could never live in the city. We are country people. I’m not afraid to live by myself or among Panamanians or any other type of people. I didn’t want to move to another “America,” like a gated community with only Americans. I wanted to get away from that and have a more unique experience.

Oscar: That was interesting how you got the last spot on the tour, which actually wasn’t supposed to be sold *laughs* remember that?

David: To this day, we chuckle about that. Oscar had to fight for us to get us on the tour because the tour was essentially full already, but he talked Magda into letting us go.

dutchoven Oscar: I think you were the only ones from that tour to move here?

David: Actually one more couple ended up buying a house here. But as it turned out, the key for us was that somehow we ended up getting hooked up with the right people. Magda, Oscar, and our lawyer have all been excellent resources. We’ve had one good person after another help out, so we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. We just followed the recommendations and that’s been the key to this easy transition. It’s so important.

Oscar: Well, the next question, to me, is silly to ask, because a lot of the reasons are obvious just being here, but what is it that you like about it here?

David: What I love about here is, in my opinion, not only the perfect climate, but also the kind supportive, tolerant people, that are the Panamanians. By and large, we’ve had nothing but good experiences with the locals. Panamanians, in general, have their priorities straight; the priorities being family, friends, and in some cases, their faith. Down here, they work to live, but they don’t live to work, unlike where I am from, where the name of the game is the almighty dollar. They (Panamanians) are living life the way I think it should be lived. We love the clean air and the freedom we have here. This is how California was 60-70 years ago; slower paced, open spaces, not scared to get sued for every little thing. If you slip and fall, you should have been looking where you were walking; if you are bit by a dog, you should have been carrying a bigger stick. Personal freedom and personal responsibility is huge. It seems like back in the states, everyone is mad at each other all the time for every little thing and it can be dangerous. I worry about that because I have family there. Here it’s a different way of life.

Oscar: Is there anything you don’t like about living here?

David: Well, I don’t have access to everything I had before, but I can get most anything I want through Amazon and stuff like that. I do wish they had a better mail system here or local post office that delivered mail. That would make it a lot easier, but you learn to adapt to the shortcomings. There’s not much I don’t like. I don’t worry about the police or the government. I’m pretty happy with what’s happening here in Panama with our president. I see money being spent in places other than Panama City. We have a brand new highway expansion going on here (Volcan Via Expansion).

Oscar: What can you tell us about the medical facilities in this area?

David: We have experiences with both government hospitals and clinics and the private ones. When we first arrived, Silvia had issues with her knees and elbows, so we went to the government hospital in Bugaba. She was seen by two doctors. She was given two injections, pills and a cream. They sent me to the window to pay and the bill was 75 cents. The next week, we went to the skin specialist and I knew that was going to be expensive. It was $1.25. I told Sil, I can’t keep paying these crushing medical expenses.

The trade off there is the wait to be seen at the public hospitals and clinics. When it came time for Silvia to have her knee replacement, we went to Chiriqui hospital in David. Her kids were dead set against it because they were scared that it was like a third world country. I said, not to worry, I will have the nurses wet down the dirt floors before the operation and they will bring in some extra candles for more light, I don’t know what I’m going to do about all these flies, but I’ll figure out something *Oscar and Megan laughing* No, but seriously, in that hospital, the floors were gleaming, everything was so clean. The doctor came in 3 or 4 times a day to see her. He gave me his personal cell phone number and said call anytime. I called him on a Sunday during Carnival and he and his family were at the beach, but Silvia was having a lot of pain, so he talked to me for about 25 minutes and not once made me feel bad about it. He said he would make a call and take care of it. The nurses and attention she got there was first rate. I’ve been really impressed.

The knee replacement was $11,000 but in the States, that would have been $150,000. When you want to have anything done in the U.S. you have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops with appointments and tests and then you finally get to schedule the procedure. Down here, the doctor checked her out, looked at the x-ray, and gave us her options. Silvia decided she wanted to have the operation and he said alright, next Friday we will do it. Also, you don’t have to go through the doctor to get every prescription. When we were on the tour, someone ran out of their inhaler, Oscar stopped the bus and they went into the pharmacy and they came right back out with the inhaler, no prescription. It makes the care a lot quicker.

Oscar: How is the power, water, and internet infrastructure in this area?davidteachesphetocook

David: The internet and electricity are not as strong as what I was used to. The internet can be a little bit touch and go, but the company is good at attending to problems. Almost on a daily basis we have short power outages, maybe for a few minutes. The power grid here is not as reliable, it is older and in need of upgrading, but it is still okay. The water quality is perfect. We drink from the tap. There are four rivers that feed our water system. I’ve gotten to know the manager of the water. I’ve had to do a few repairs on the water lines here. The manager was impressed, I guess, because it’s not typical to see the gringos fixing the water lines in their communities. It’s not something many people are used to, but here it is. So we’ve become pretty good friends.

Oscar: What is the expat community like in this area?

David: Small community, very nice. I don’t get into cliques. That’s one reason why we didn’t choose Boquete because, to us, we sensed a bit of a country club atmosphere. It’s inevitable that where expats gather, there is an informal pecking order, but we don’t enjoy those sorts of environments. So, we liked it over here in the country more. There is a small expat market in Volcan on Fridays and the people we’ve met up there are very nice. We’ve made friends with a number of people here. We’re not introverts but we’ve spent our whole lives in the country and we feel free out here.

Oscar: How would you describe the greater Volcan area to someone thinking of moving here?

David: Because of the new highway expansion, I see Volcan becoming the new Boquete. I see it as a lot of potential for real estate and services and everything. The old highway kept Volcan off the beaten path. If I were to describe Volcan in one word, it would be potential. And Buena Vista is just our little slice of heaven.

 

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One Comment

  1. Greatly appreciate your review of Panama it is a great country im not from there but will soon be moving there i have already bought land there and last year build a tiny house.. I just can’t believe that a lot of people still believe we are using candles for lighting Lol i have seen Panamas development in the last few years and still growing..

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