Once again we find two months have blinked by since last we shared a post. It is not for lack of material, but merely for lack of time amid so much happening. Nearly two years into our Panamanian adventure, we feel a good sort of routine developing in our lives. So much has transpired since we started our last semester in Morocco in January 2020 that, while we do not yearn for things mundane, there is a comfort factor that comes with settling in and looking toward things not changing for a while.
School administration has not returned to February 2020 status. It never will. But managing issues tied to the Pandemic has stabilized as “one more” thing added to all the other parts of running a school that have returned to front burner attention after being shoved aside for about 20 months. Safety protocols, contact tracing, and shutting down classrooms with outbreaks will stay high profile into the foreseeable future. But HR issues, strategic planning, curriculum development, and mission/vision implementation are back to make the work life of a Head of School challenging, exciting, and rewarding instead of merely exhausting. In September, Audrey will welcome stakeholders to ISP’s 40th Anniversary gala event. It will be a great celebration!
Brian is also getting back into the swing of gainful employment after two years on sabbatical. In the next couple weeks he expects to start consulting for a U.S.-based company seeking to market both to U.S. schools and international schools its product that makes school buildings and classrooms safer. With all the recent attention to school violence, the timing could not be more important. He hopes also to continue volunteering in school accreditation work leading visitation teams at international schools, especially as the accrediting agency returns to on-site visits after spending the last couple years doing only virtual ones. Meanwhile, since January he has been delighted to rejoin the music world as he started singing with two choral groups. Last Sunday he had his first concert with Cantus Panamá, singing a diversity of music in English and Spanish. In early July he will have his first concert with Cantemus Panamá, which focuses more on classical/spiritual choral music and will offer several performances of J. S. Bach’s “Christ Lag in Todesbanden.”
Much of Brian’s time remains committed to helping his octogenarian mother in Washington State. Like he did last August and September, he returned to the Pacific Northwest for another six-week stint helping her with a range of projects from late-April through early-June. Purging decades of stuff and making regular trips to the dump and to Goodwill, meeting with professionals for legal and financial appointments, cleaning up branches that fell around the mountain cabin property through the winter and other property maintenance, and fortifying her digital proficiency so that she can bring music back into her world thanks to Apple Music played through a Bose wireless speaker via the magic of Bluetooth all kept him busy during his PNW time. And she seems to be developing a greater comfort with using him for assistance from Panama as well, he having FaceTimed last week for a two hour appointment she had with a very flexible and understanding Verizon guy to update her phone plan and devices for the first time in years. One special part of this most recent trip to Skykomish was Brian being able to celebrate his 55th birthday with his mother. They went to the Whistling Post, Skykomish’s town watering hole, where some friends treated them to dinner and they shared birthday cake with anyone in the WP who wanted a slice.
Another important focus for Brian while in the PNW was our storage units in Bellingham. We started our Expat Expedition blog in 2016 as we prepared to depart for overseas jobs in Casablanca, Morocco. After selling or giving away the vast majority of what we owned, we still filled three 5’ x 10’ storage units with furniture, artwork, china and glassware, generations of photos and memorabilia from both Audrey’s and Brian’s families, and lots of books (the consequence of two academics with multiple degrees…oh, and Audrey’s collection of roughly 300 cookbooks AFTER paring it down). It has sat for six years, with us figuring that once we finally settle someplace we can ship it to that location. Brian spent his first week in the PNW purging and reorganizing in preparation for a shipping company to collect our stuff and send it to Panamá.
It was finally time to ship our storage stuff after we decided that Panamá will be our new home, and after finding the “forever home” where we plan to live and someday retire. Besides a beautiful sunset view of the water and of downtown Panamá, our Costa del Este condo gives us one-floor living, so we will have no accessibility issues when we are old codgers wheeling around instead of walking. And anything we could want – from groceries to great restaurants to all sorts of stores to a new Emergency Room and clinic three blocks away – is available easily to us by walking a few blocks or by a quick drive. Our effort to purchase our condo started in October. Buying property in Panamá is very different from doing so in the U.S. The most striking contrasts stem from there being essentially no process here for escrow. We said goodbye to large chunks of our money long before closing ever happened, and surprises kept popping up along the way for this or that bank requirement that would cost us more money or threaten to kill the deal or both. But after six months of ongoing effort, we finally were able to close on our condo just before Brian left for Washington State. So now, even if we end up going somewhere else for another job for a time (which, for the record, we have zero intention of doing!), this is our base, this is where we will come “home,” and this is where we will retire. Making that decision gave us and continues to give us an incredible sense of comfort. We love traveling and seeing the world. That will never stop. But after six years of roaming, we feel home. That is different from merely living someplace. We belong. We can plant.
Of course, after a decade of not owning a house (having bought and sold five houses in several U.S. states during our life together), the process of settling in as renewed homeowners means fixing things that need fixing. Last week we had more days with workmen in our condo than not. Next up is painting the whole 3200 square foot pad. We hoped we could do that before our shipment arrives from Bellingham, but our painter cannot start until mid-July and the shipping company says the shipment will reach Panamá before then. Assuming it goes through Customs without a hitch, we think Brian will have to move boxes from room to room to stay ahead of the painter. One way or another, it will get done.
And then it will be ours. Not just where we live, but our home. We really miss that.
And throughout it all, we will have visitors. Tonight Brian’s cousin and her two boys arrive from Seattle for a Panamanian adventure carrying through the end of June. Then more friends come. Then Adam and His Parents will return for five weeks for some medical work he needs that we prefer to do here than in Morocco. Then more friends. From today until the end of August, we will have only five days without guests in our home. We love that. It will just be a little crazy entertaining guests while also doing home repair, painting, and receiving our cargo shipment from Bellingham. But we would not have it any other way. The other day we even booked our first guests for 2023 on the Visitor Calendar that we created.
So let us know if you think you might be in town. We would love to see you.
On your mark, get set, here we go!