Reflections on the Move to the US

It has been over a year now since Lilliam and I moved to the US, so let me take a little time and reflect on Lilliam’s and my initial reflections on the US move. I returned after living 15 years in Panama and Lilliam was beginning her transition to the US, only having experienced it on several short visits.

I will start with our arrival in Houston. This was our initial point of entry and Lilliam’s final interview with immigration prior to receiving her Green Card. The interview was pretty quick and she was happy to now be into her new life experience.

I elected to fly directly to Houston, even though it cost me a little more, to avoid Koki having to transfer flights. We had previously talked about buying a Minivan as our primary car and to test the concept, we rented a minivan in Houston to drive to the Austin area.

We picked up the rental and went to the cargo area to get Koki. She was beyond ecstatic to see us. I had previously purchased a Garmin GPS to provide driving directions. While not perfect, it was better than printed maps. The drive to Austin was easy and non eventful.

We arrived in Houston in the evening and part of the drive would be night driving. This created the first noticeable change. Highway speeds were 75 mph (120 kl/h). There was good lighting on the freeways, there was no concern of holes in the road, there was ample space on the side of the highway in case there was a need to park. Anyone that drives in Panama know that driving at night is taking your life in your own hands with little control over what might happen.

The minivan was a hit, so we added that to our “to be purchased” list.

Arriving in November, provided our first realization that the climate would never be the same again. If there is one overriding reason for living in Panama, it is the climate. I loved the climate in David. Some might think it hot, but the mid 80s year round was perfect for me. I only had one season of clothes. More items for the “to be purchased list”.

Koki was delighted. The climate didn’t bother her and she was getting frequent walks and sooooo many new people to get to know and be petted by.

November was spent house hunting, furniture hunting, obtaining a mobile cellular contract and in December we moved. We had practically done the impossible by finding a house and closing before the end of the year. Prior to moving, we also purchased a Honda Odyssey. I got the lowest model that allowed for Android Auto.

Speaking of Cellular, I had a new Google Pixel 2 XL waiting for me when I arrived and I fully expected to sign Lilliam and I up for Google Fi mobile service. However, T-Mobile came out with a senior plan and I went with them for $60/month for both of us with unlimited data. Since I expected to use my cell phone for Android Auto, I didn’t want to be concerned about data. It has been perfect.

Like I said in the previous post, we moved with basically only small items such as laptops, a sewing machine (in Lilliam’s carry on), family photos, my desk files, and clothes. The house came with a dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, side by side refrigerator, stove and microwave. We swapped the refrigerator for a French door refrigerator. The furniture came from IKEA and Rooms to Go. I found the refrigerator at JCPenney of all places.

I also became better friends with Amazon and eBay. While I have been friends for some time, we developed an extreme relationship after the move into the new house. It was so nice to need something, get on the internet and order it and have it delivered to your front door in 2 days.

I bought a Nest thermostat off eBay about $100 off normal list price. I swapped the doorbell out for a Ring doorbell, also off eBay, at significant savings, and I started using the multiple Alexas dots to control lighting. I swapped the irrigation controller for a smarter internet connected controller.

I bought the living room TV off the internet at about 50% off Best Buy’s price and hung TVs in the bedrooms for all the family that Lilliam expected to be visit, all of which will be here for Christmas.

The house has an office that Lilliam and I share. It is an office for me and a sewing room for Lilliam. Her side is neat and orderly and my desk is a little messy.

Most of this took up November, December and January. We were both busy and didn’t have much time to sit and reflect. Now that we were pretty well settled, Lilliam began to feel her first adjustment anxiety.

The same thing happened to her when she retired and didn’t have a constant routine of going to teach every day. Since she was feeling a little depressed, I started searching for a local family doctor. I should mention, that I had purchased Lilliam some private health insurance when we arrived. While I was covered by Medicare, I wanted her covered too. (more on that later).

The search for doctors provided an interesting challenge. I needed one that could communicate in Spanish. Seems like someone is always looking out for us and the closest clinic to where we lived had a doctor that was bilingual. He diagnosed Lilliam as having typical moving depression and gave her a prescription. One week later, she was cured and has felt great since. We were extremely impressed with the friendliness and professionalism with our first US medical experience.

Lilliam’s insurance provided for an annual physical as did my medicare, so we completed our physicals. We have both had colonoscopies, Lilliam has had complete female checkups and our out of pocket expense have been less and $100. I will say that having seen the hospital charges, it is good that we were covered, but still feel we had higher quality care than we have had in Panama.

Remember, before we moved, I had canceled my Panama insurance that was costing me $900+ a month. I had figured if we moved and spent less than $900/month, we would be ahead.

Several months ago, I started researching new insurance for Lilliam and during my research, it appeared that she qualified for Medicare ( a surprise to me). A few months ago, we went to the local Social Security office and got her signed up for Medicare. While there, the SS agent asked if we wanted to begin her social security payments.

I told the fellow I wasn’t aware she qualified for it, but it seems she qualifies because of all the years I had worked. So we left the social security office with her having Medicare A (Part B starts next July) and a good bump in our monthly income. Life is great.

Had I been smarter, I could have done this when we first got her and I wouldn’t have needed her private insurance, because she would have had Medicare immediately.

Continuing on the health saga, I scheduled an eye checkup and got new glasses. In Panama, my last ophthalmologist had told me I may need surgery and it would require equipment that was not in Panama. The visit showed that I only needed updated glasses, which I purchased at Costco.

I wrote a lot of the previous back in August and an just now getting around to posting it. I updated some of it to be current with today.

So I guess this is the place I should ask, “Are we happy we moved?”

I think the unequivocal answer is “YES”. For Lilliam and I, the move has been almost perfect. We think the house is about perfect for us. Not too large take care of and large enough to handle company and feel comfortable.

The thing I miss most from Panama is the weather. I also miss the association I had with the Embassy and getting enjoy the feeling of helping people, but that is a short list.

With this, I will close. I may have missed a few things, but if they come to the front of mind I will post them later. I have some technology items that I would like to write about, but they really deserve a separate post.

At least this lets you know that Lilliam and I are still alive and enjoying life.

24 thoughts on “Reflections on the Move to the US

  1. Appreciate and enjoyed reading your reflection, been following you for some time. I was born in Gorgas Hospital 1963, grew up in Corozol, graduated Balboa HS 1981…have toyed with idea of obtaining a Cedula for a few reasons but have decided to pause process. Have been back 3 times in 2000s. Panama will always be in my heart but have not felt the connection or urge to retire in the country mostly out of safety and quality of life reasons, it’s not cheap anymore either. Your reflection helps to validate these feelings. Although Atlanta is our current home due to spouse work, Arizona has been home for 23 years and will be our retirement destination. Thanks again for your postings!

  2. Hi Don…
    Thanks for sharing experiences of your journey back to the U.S.
    I’m happy to hear that everything is working out well for both you and Lilliam.

  3. Don……We first bumped into you in Super Baru some 11 years ago. We later learned of your Warden status and kept up with what you sent out to all of us. Now fast forward, Bill and I are now over 70.(..I’m 73.5 ) and we do consider what a relocation to the USA would feel like. ( you are always a step ahead of us !) Anyway, thank you for your posts and the information you share. You may not be Warden here….but to US you still are !
    Happy Thanksgiving to you both and enjoy the Holidays there in your new home.
    Alison and Bill Brundage
    Brisas Bquetenas

  4. Don glad to hear you both are Happy. We travel to Texas last year to visit some friends near Austin. We too were amazed at how nice the roads were. The things you take for granted. Thank you again for your help with the Embassy. In writing your blogs we learned allot about Panama bad are still here. Take care

  5. So glad you and Lilliam are doing so well. I had to smile at the comments about the roads in Panama. If it’s any consolation, they are worse in Costa Rica. LOL

  6. Glad you are still writing. John & I still feel we made the right, albeit difficult, decision to return to the U.S.A. Chiriqui and our Chiricano friends will always hold a huge place in our hearts. Merry Christmas to you and Lilliam.

  7. After growing up in the David and now living in California for the last 26 years I can tell you that I do not miss two things from paPana, the humidity (is not humid in Central California) and the traffic, mainly in Panama City. I agree with you not having to change wardrobe is an advantage. I am glad you and Lilliam are happy with your new home.

  8. Hola Don Ray and Lilliam,

    We are glad that you have settled into the new lifestyle. Anyone who can adjust to Panama and last 15 years should be able to repatriate with minimal effort. Nena came to the US in ’71 and since we visited family every year there, we had yearly reminders of the differences. When I retired 10 years ago, I asked her about retiring to Panama. She could not entertain the idea of living in Panama so we will continue to visit there.

    Nena did bring a sister and 2 brothers to the US as permanent residents 12 years ago. Her sister began receiving her social security payments 2 years ago and has returned to Panama to be with her family. She also receives a check from Panama so she is doing well in retirement.

    Visiting Panama and living in the US is the best of both worlds.

    jim and nena

  9. Thank you so much for the update. It is great to hear that you have both adjusted to your new life there. Take care and we wish you both a Blessed Holiday Season.

  10. Glad you both made the transition so well…….I’m having a tough time adapting to the weather as well…..I’m in snowy Michigan…but it is nice to be able to go to the store and get things you need and don’t have to be on a scavenger hunt…..Good luck and happy holidays…

  11. Am so happy to hear that your move has worked out well for you! I’ve always been grateful to you for personally talking me out of moving to Panama. It would have been a huge mistake for my wife and myself. You always painted a much more accurate and realistic picture of what it was really like to live there. Wish you all the best in your new digs !

  12. Oh my goodness Don! I had no clue you were going to continue Chiriqui Chatter once you left! I was just rereading some of your old post and by accident, found this post from late 2018. We (many of us), have missed you, missed seeing you two around.

    I am so happy for you and Lilliam, so happy you have had such a positive outcome, so happy to know that you have no regrets about your return to the US. I confess, I sometimes entertain the idea of returning myself! There are things I miss and I do miss not being able to be there for my daughter and grandson. For now, it is a day to day thing, but things can change.

    Now that I know you are still posting, I will continue to check back. Take care and give Lilliam my regards.

  13. Yes, I am still alive and every now and then I think I really should post something about”fill in the blank”.

    Thanks for checking in and I will get something posted after I file my taxes.

  14. Hi Don: so great to read your post, i had given up on you ever posting again. Glad the move back went smoothly We miss you daily posts that kept us so well informed. Take Care. Patrick & Graciela

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