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Panama

It’s January 2009 and I’m in Panama to investigate the possibility of working here. It’s cheaper and faster to get from Washington, DC to Panama City than to California. The time zone is Eastern Standard Time, so collaborating with others in the U.S. does not have to involve bleary eyed conferences in the middle of the night, as would be the case in Asia. Although the Canal Zone is no longer a U.S. territory, and Panama is a sovereign nation, the U.S. dollar (also known here as the balboa) is the national currency of Panama, greatly simplifying financial transactions for U.S. citizens. The cost of living here is significantly less than the cost of living in major U.S. cities.

Here I tell you what I’ve learned about Panama so far. I don’t by any means claim to be an expert; feel free to correct me, and I’ll correct the article. Panama is an international banking center, and home to the Panama Canal. It is bordered on the west by Costa Rica, and on the southeast by Colombia.

The national language is, of course, Spanish. Although I read that due to the American presence in the past, English is widely used, I found that not to be the case. Although I have studied several European and Asian languages, I know only a little Spanish. What a humbling thing it is to be unable to express myself. There have been many times when I felt stupid. In the rare cases when someone communicates to me in English, they are often apologizing that their English is not good. How ironic…I tell them not to apologize, and that it is I who should apologize for not speaking Spanish.

Panama City, the capital city, is the wealthiest Central American capital, and is home to a million plus of the three million plus inhabitants in Panama.

A Panama City public bus

A Panama City public bus

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