Random Thoughts in These Unusual Times

Random Thoughts in These Unusual Times

Random thoughts everyone… get ’em here while they’re hot!  I decided to make this week’s post a little different.

Times are crazy right now.  With the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc, it’s surreal to think about how so many folks throughout the entire world are at home right now.  Some are self-isolating while others are being required to be in lockdown.

Regardless, I don’t know of a time like this in this modern age.  This is something new to the world.  That means a lot of adjustment for all of us.

I thought I’d use today to talk about a few of the random thoughts on my mind.  I think it’s important that folks are sharing what’s going on in their heads right now – the good, bad, and ugly.

Sometimes it’s reassuring to know that others might be in the same place as you.  We need to laugh together, be angry together, or even cry together.

And the only way to make that happen is to put that information out there… hence my random thoughts!

“Should I Stay or Should I Go”

To start with, I wanted to share our situation.  Most of you know that we moved to Panama from the U.S. in August of 2019.

There are a lot of things to love here and some things that aren’t perfect.  Regardless, between the different culture and unique experiences, it’s been a wonderful adventure so far.

However, we recently had a major wake-up call.  On Thurs, 03/19/20, Panama announced that they would be shutting down international flights in and out of the country (with essential exceptions) by the end of the weekend.  The U.S. Embassy immediately emailed us and told us that we either had to get on a plane or we were on our own for an indefinite amount of time…

Life changed in the blink of an eye.  That word “indefinite” made things rougher even though I’m guessing it wasn’t used to instill fear but rather because they didn’t have a better word to use there.

Remember the old song by the Clash – “Should I Stay or Should I Go”?  Couldn’t be much more applicable.

We spent that Thursday evening and Friday morning trying to decide the best thing to do.  There was no perfect decision:

  • Things have been good here and I feel very safe here for the time being.  Plus the virus wasn’t very widespread in Panama.
  • But it’s a foreign country and we don’t have residency.  If the @#$% hits the fan here, what do we have as far as rights go?  Would we have to worry about safety?
  • If we go to the U.S. though, we know what our rights are and we have the comfort of knowing that we’re citizens.
  • But we would have had to jump on three airplanes across four different airports to get there… talk about upping your odds for getting the virus.  And could we live with ourselves if we did go, our daughter caught the virus, and didn’t survive?  The odds are slim, but they’re there.
  • And if we went back, we’d have to quarantine ourselves.  Even if we stayed with my brother and sister-in-law  at their home in Texas (our plan), imagine being quarantined off to basically a bedroom and bathroom for 14 days… that’s a long time!
  • If we stayed in Panama though and something happened to our parents or siblings, we couldn’t get back to them.  There would be no way in and out of Panama.
  • But if we were in Texas, could we even get back to family in Ohio even if we wanted to?  Maybe renting a car?

Anyway, it was probably one of the toughest decisions we’ve ever made.  We discussed and argued all over on this mess of a problem.  We even ended up flip-flopping sides at different times as we were trying to figure out the right choice.

Late Thursday night (3/19), I reached out to Joshua Sheets from Radical Personal Finance.  He really keeps up on these kinds of things and is someone I consider to be extremely wise in how he comes to conclusions.  He was nice enough to call and talk to me for about 45 minutes.  Very valuable discussion.

On Friday morning (3/20), Lisa and I talked about it some more.  Finally, we made the decision to stay put.

Was it the best choice?  So far it seems to be the smart one, but only time will tell.

The timeline here in Panama

We’ve been pretty careful about what we did and where we went since the virus was first found in Panama.  We were doing the social distancing thing as much as we could.

But things have escalated very quickly here.  And by that, I specifically mean the actions taken by President Nito Cortizo.  He’s been very aggressive with how he’s been handling this since the beginning.  I agree with his actions and I’m pleased by what he’s done.

I decided to go through all my emails and compile you a table of what’s been going on with COVID-19 here in Panama:

DateConfirmed Cases in PanamaCounter Measures Enacted
3/11/202014Enhanced screening, including all cruise ships
School and university closures nationwide until 03/20 (4/7 in San Miguelito, Panama Centro, and Panama Norte)
Suspension of large gatherings until 4/7.
3/12/202027Enhanced screening and quarantine measures
Effective 3/13, cruise ship passengers banned from disembarking in Panama or subject to a 14-day quarantine
3/15/202055Effective 3/16, all public entertainment areas and stores in the entire country must close, which includes, restaurants, bars, clubs, casinos, and children’s parks, as well as beaches. Food delivery services, grocery stores, and pharmacies will continue to operate with social distancing and capacity limits.
Effective 3/17, only Panamanian citizens and residents can enter the country and all travelers must submit to a 14-day mandatory home quarantine
All events nationwide (i.e., fairs, events, church services, etc.) that would congregate more than 50 people have been suspended. Patrols are moving through the city sanctioning groups of over 50 persons.
3/16/202069No admission to individuals who are not citizens or residents. All incoming travelers are subject to a mandatory 14-day in-home quarantine.
3/18/2020109Indefinite nationwide curfew between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.
3/19/2020137Effective 3/23, suspense of all commercial flights into and out of Panama
3/23/2020345Effective 3/24, expand nationwide curfew to 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
People who break health regulations and quarantines will receive fines between $50,000 to $100,000
3/24/2020443Effective 3/25, nationwide movement restrictions, also being referred to as quarantine
Regular windows of time (2 hours) for people to grocery shop, get medicines, or deal with medical emergencies based on the last digit of their cedula number or passport
Special window for those over 60 years old, regardless of cedula or passport numbers, between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm.
3/25/2020558Valle Escondido (our community):
You may be outside as long as you stay within the perimeter of your property.
For those with pets you can take them outside as long as you do not leave your property.
For those in the villas and condos, you can take your pets onto the area surrounding your complex but nowhere else.
Walking is not allowed anywhere in Valle Escondido at any time.
3/30/20201075Effective 4/1, the 2-hour window of time to get groceries or medicine is still based on your cedula or passport number.
But now women can only utilize their window on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays.
The window for men falls on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays.
On Sundays, everyone stays home.

The really interesting part you might have noticed is that breaking the lockdown can cost you a fine of $50,000 to $100,000!  This guy ain’t joking around.  That would be one way to crush our early retirement and put me back to work!

As you can see, he’s been pushing out some strict rules… and, although it’s pissing some people off here, I agree with the direction 100%.

Does it suck for everyone?  Yes.

Is this hurting the economy here?  Tremendously.  It’s going to be a tough hole to dig out of, but I also think it has to be done or it has the potential to be so much worse.

Random thoughts on our lockdown

So here we are sitting in lockdown, which is also being referred to as a quarantine here.  Even as a family who’s been together 24 hours a day for almost every single day since we moved to Panama in August, this still adds an interesting twist.  Being able to at least get out of the condo together has been a good chance to blow off a little steam.

Not anymore.  If you read through the table above, you saw that we really can’t leave the house.  Our HOA has stated that we can go outside and walk around the apartment building once or twice, but that’s about it… that’s rough.

Technically, we could go to the grocery store during our allotted hours, but we’re not taking any chances.  Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of options though for delivery like we would in the U.S. – it’s just not a normal thing here in Boquete yet.

However, a young entrepreneur quickly put together a little business called Boquete Delivers to get you what you’re after.  We just gave it a test run on Friday (and again on Sunday) and it worked great.  We were able to get fresh fruits and veggies needed without having to head out.  The driver wore a mask and gloves and dropped everything off here perfectly.

So that’s good… and bad.  It’s great that we found a way to get our groceries or anything we need.  But, we’re still stuck in our place all day and all night like many of you are.

It’s hard not to feel cooped up and want to be outside.

There’s so much uncertainty right now.  There are so many people who have a lot of anxiety and stress right now.

We’re hanging in there, but that that uncertainty does add a dimension of stress into our lives.  I wouldn’t say that we’re depressed but we do have some days where we’re just feeling kind of blah.

Overall, we just feel more tired than usual and have days where we don’t want to do anything.  Fortunately, those days aren’t too bad either – a lot of laziness and watching movies or TV together.

I do like to think of the pros though.  Even though we’re stuck in the condo, it’s 75 degrees here every day.  That means we can have the windows and doors open like always and can breathe in some fresh air.  We have a nice balcony overlooking a pond that we can hang out on as well…

The situation is tough for anyone in lockdown, but I do count our blessings as well.  And one day, this will all be just a blip in the past that we tell our grand-kids about.

Filling the time with Faith

Anyone with kids staying at home 24 x 7 with their kids knows that they need to keep busy.  If you have more than one, sometimes they can play (and fight) with each other.  If you only have one… you’re their best friend.

We’re lucky in that we’re already used to homeschooling Faith since we moved here.  That’s one less adjustment we have to worry about.

Outside of that, she seems to be finding ways to keep all of us busy.

Creating a comic book

Faith had the idea for us to create a comic book, which of course, I loved!  Not sure when this will be published to the masses (it won’t), but we’ve been having a lot of fun with “Meatball World.”

Playing games

One of the best decisions I made was to bring our old-school Nintendo Wii to Panama with us.  Not only do we play some fun classics like Mario Kart Wii and Wii Sports together, but we’re able to play board games on it that we don’t have with us (like Monopoly).

Additionally, we love to play card games like Rummy and Uno (still not sure why it’s not called “One” here!).  Next up, we’re going to learn how to play Skip-Bo together.

Forts / Ninja Warrior / YouTube editing

Building forts – it’s ingrained in us all.  What else can I say about that?  That easily fills a couple of hours and gives us a place to hang out.

On a more interesting note, Faith had the idea to create an American Ninja Warrior type of course inside our condo.  Lisa and Faith did all the brainstorming on this one and created the course.  Then we all took a shot or two at it.

Faith has a YouTube channel so she took the footage and compiled a fun video out of it.  Check it out here:

Making the Best of Quarantine with Our Own American Ninja Warrior-Like Course!

If you really want to make her day, click on the “Subscribe” button on the right side of her page – she loves seeing new subscribers!

Speaking of YouTube, our little diva records footage to put on her channel all the time but never gets it uploaded.  That’s because I taught her to do her own editing and it takes some effort to do.  Well, now she’s got the time to edit and upload her backlog so plan on some new videos soon!

Talking to friends

I keep pushing Faith to talk to her friends more, too.  She’s made a couple of friends here in Boquete but then this whole pandemic meant they couldn’t hang out for a while.

So I’ve been encouraging her to talk to her friends here and in the U.S. through video chats, phone calls, or email.  She’s been doing that a lot lately and that’s good for her.  I think it helps minimize some of the bouts of loneliness.  No one wants to be around their parents 24 x 7!

Talking to our friends back in the U.S.

Being holed up in lockdown gives everyone a little more time to be homesick.  So it was fun to do a video chat with some friends in the U.S. last week.

I decided we’d use Google Hangouts since we all already have Google accounts.  You can also use it right through your laptop browser without needing to install any apps or software.  We had four couples on the call and I figured we’d have some technical difficulties at the beginning, which sure enough proved true.

But once we got things rolling, we had a lot of good laughs and drank a lot of beer together.  I didn’t expect this to be as much fun as it was.  It wasn’t as good as seeing everyone in person, but it was a much-needed call.

The best part was that no one had to worry about drinking and driving – just walking back to their bedroom at the end of the night.

Believe it or not, most of us stayed on the call for four hours!  We had enough fun that we decided that we’re going to do it again this coming Friday.

It’s not perfect, but if you find yourself wanting a little more socialization, this is worth a shot.  There are a ton of free services to use – here are some options:

Time with friends is valuable – don’t let that go by the wayside while stuck at home!

The stock market

The market’s been on a real roller coaster as the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic has started rolling.  Personally, I don’t think the ride’s over either.

A lot of companies have gone out of business or have already gotten hurt badly.  With the majority that does survive, they’ll probably see a struggle with supply chains and trying to get back on track.

No one knows for sure, but I would bet the market’s going to hit some even lower points along the way.  If it does, I’ll continue to buy along the way.  If it doesn’t, no harm, no foul.

In the long run, I have confidence that we’ll see a good recovery.  I don’t think this will drag on for years, but we’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, we’re blessed to be in a position where we can actually take advantage of the end of this bull market.  I’ve bought a few times on the way down and will continue to do so if and when the opportunities present themselves.

How’s that for some random thoughts?

Times are weird right now.  This isn’t something any of us are used to going through.  There might be times where your mind gets jacked up from being at home all day.  If you haven’t been put on a full lockdown yet, you’re in for some fun.

I’m here to tell you that things aren’t perfect for us.  Being on lockdown is tough.  Not being able to even go for a normal walk outside just plain sucks.

But here’s the deal – I look at this as something that needs to be done.  I hope that someday soon we’ll just have the memories of this point in time.

It’s important to put this into perspective.  Our relatives from decades ago had it much worse.  Think of how citizens were asked to go to war and put their own lives on the line for World War II – they knew that they might not come back and still went.  We’re being asked to stay indoors with all the conveniences of modern technology for a short while to help control the spread of a virus.

Think about that.  Stay home, spend more quality time with your immediate family, get caught up on outstanding tasks you’ve put off, exercise, keep chatting with friends and family, and stay safe.

Those are some of my random thoughts… what’s on your mind?

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

20 thoughts on “Random Thoughts in These Unusual Times”

  1. A few thoughts since it’s starkly similar here in South Africa to what you’re describing:
    1. What if the lockdown doesn’t end. Ours is 21 days but many places are extending the quarantine. Should I start that new business now?
    2. In terms of our US investments theyve held up well in our local currency since the currency got 30% weaker. So things are even cheaper now in our country. I’m sure you might see the same considering your investments are in USD but spending local. As long as the banks don’t stop cash withdrawals we should be fine.
    3. Closing the borders is the scariest part. If the country collapses economically (a real possibility), then we have a problem, because the army is not well behaved and you cant get out. We stayed because of our family being based here.

    Good luck! I long for the large gardens of our other family members, but at least we can all keep in contact and the sun is still shining.

    1. I like that idea of staring into the future and trying to figure out some “what-ifs.” I think I spend too much of my own time doing that and over-analyzing everything! 😉

      But you’re right – word on the streets here is that we’re probably realistically looking at the end of April beginning of May until things start to loosen up here in Panama. In the meantime, all we can do is try to ensure we’re prepared the best we can be.

      That’s a nice fringe benefit of being able to buy things cheaper there. Not sure if we’ll see the same here in Panama since their dollar trades evenly with the US dollar. However, I think the economy’s going to be hit pretty hard with this so that might just push prices lower due to supply and demand… we’ll see. It’s tough to see though because I really don’t want the Panamanians struggling – they’re really good people.

      Stay safe, Bob, and keep looking at the positives!

  2. I get the social distancing but I don’t get why you would have to stay on your property. As long as where you go is basically deserted how is that any worse than staying inside your property line. My wife and I got up before 5 AM this morning and drove to meet a handful of friends at a starting point for our morning runs, we paired off into groups of two and ran our four mile morning run. We didn’t touch and kept 6 feet apart. We ran on the streets of our small city. Yesterday my wife and I took our boat to a local lake to fish. Again we didn’t see anybody, in this rural area people are few and far between. I can’t see why staying at home is any safer than just avoiding people. Traveling from home to any rural area is allowed under the guidelines of all the rural states that I’ve seen. Fishing, hiking and cycling are encouraged in those states but in other places, primarily crowded ones the rules are about staying at home. Maybe that’s necessary in metro or crowded rural areas but it doesn’t make sense where we live. I would have thought there were lots of wide open spaces in Panama as well?

    1. It’s funny how in just this short amount of time, I’m already yearning to be back outside again. Everything you’re talking about sounds wonderful!

      My understanding (bear in mind, this is just hearsay) is that a lot of Panamanians would still congregate and not adhere to the 6 foot rule (they go by a 1 meter rule here). So the President is putting that in place to just drop the hammer and try to enforce the distancing more.

      And yes, there are plenty of wide open spaces here where we’re at (not so much in Panama City), but I think that’s just the way it goes. Generally, when we walk around our gated community here for a mile or so, there’s a very good chance we don’t ever even pass anyone. But, it’s hard to pick and choose – it just makes it easier to blanket the rules for all. Still, if this crushes the virus spread, we’ll live with not being able to walk around outside for a little while. So far, 0 confirmed cases in Bajo Boquete (where we live) and only 2 in Alto Boquete (about 10-15 minutes south of here).

  3. I’d be using that balcony A LOT! Here in Ohio they just said schools closed through May 1. They have gone to online with the Chromebooks. My kids have adjusted ok. Hard for my oldest who is in college to learn calculus and chemistry this way, especially not being able to do labs. I’m still hoping that there will still be a prom and graduation for the seniors. This is really messing up their spring but it is what it is.

    We can still go out and shop here. We keep it to once a week at most. Some people wear masks and gloves, saw one with a half face respirator. Otherwise people keep their distance pretty well. The weather we was great, about 70 a few days ago. Did lots of walking. Now it is rainy and 40. Sinus weather yo-yo.

    Hang in there, it will get better. Just imagine how Londoner’s felt during the blitz. It could be worse.

    1. I heard about the schools being closed through 5/1 in Ohio. I could only imagine how hard of adjustment that is for the kids and for the parents, but it’s the right thing to do. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me that much to see them just finish the year that way. I feel bad for your oldest and any others trying to tackle the harder subjects remotely – it’s hard to get a handle on some subjects without the tangible. That does suck for proms and graduation – maybe someone will come up with a good way to ensure both go on – maybe at a later time?

      Haha, it’s definitely that time of year in Ohio – I don’t miss the up and down weather at all! 🙂

      I’m with you on how it could be worse. I look at it that way all the time. This is just temporary and we’ll all get past it eventually.

      You hang in there as well and take care, Scott!

  4. Not sure I get the severe restriction against walking the property as long as you maintain distance, but whatever. Our local park is busy but people stay spaced out. Ok, spaced out isn’t the correct word when local dispensaries have been declared essential businesses, but 6 ft is easy to maintain.

    As far as the decision to stay or go – avoid looking in the rear view mirror. We make critical decisions every day that could have vastly different outcomes. We make them with the best info available at the time. Then step boldly into the future. If you spend too much time looking in the rear view mirror you might drive into a ditch. You don’t seem to be looking backwards, though, so that is good. Onward to adventure!

    1. And we can’t buy alcohol either – stuck at home and can’t even drink?! Don’t worry, I stocked up on beer before this all began. 😉

      I’m too lazy to retype this, but I just mentioned in another comment regarding the restriction against walking around:
      My understanding (bear in mind, this is just hearsay) is that a lot of Panamanians would still congregate and not adhere to the 6 foot rule (they go by a 1 meter rule here). So the President is putting that in place to just drop the hammer and try to enforce the distancing more.

      It’s funny how we finally had a rhythm going here and then BOOM! But, it’s all good. Plenty of complainers I see on the Facebook expat groups here bitching about everything, but why? It just makes life miserable. Life’s always going to be what you make of it. We’re pretty laid-back so we just adjust and move on. We’ll continue to have fun while we wait for the storm to pass! 🙂

      Hope things are good for you, Kev!!

  5. The main message I see missing is that this is a temporary, highly disruptive scenario. I still don’t understand why the word ‘social’ precedes ‘distancing’ – it’s really just distancing (physical). I interpret ‘social distancing’ to mean reducing verbal/visual/digital human interactions and/or withdrawing from communicating with others (estrangement) – the opposite of what’s being emphasized. I hope some of the upsides will continue – reduced pollution, cheap gas, less commuting, no mass shootings, maybe some aspects of reduced crime (it’s really dumb to attempt home invasion/residential burglary now), but I wonder if other crimes will increase as desperate people will enact desperate measures to get money and other resources? If so many things are repurposed/offered online, where will anyone need to go when constraints are lifted? So glad we can still walk/run/bike on public streets & sidewalks in the US. I’m anxious to see if there will be a baby boom in December, and what will be Belarus’ outcomes.

    1. I just heard yesterday that the medical community has “re-branded” the term “social distancing” to be “physical distancing”… so it looks like you’re ahead of the curve on that one! 🙂

      As long as society doesn’t just lay down and accept the ideas of everything going back to the way they were, I imagine that there could be a lot of good changes like you mentioned become more of the norm. That will be interesting to watch and see.

      I think the government and Fed are doing everything in their power to stop this from becoming another recession or worse yet, a depression. That’s when the desperation would really peek its head. I hope that this just becomes a small rough patch, but only time will tell. The good news is that the economy was strong going into this. I think there’s a good chance that we’re able to bounce back from this within a year or so. Fingers crossed.

  6. Mrs. Tako and I always talk about how you guys are down there inPanama, so it was good to get an update on the COVID-19 quarantine situation in Panama.

    It’s definitely a harsher quarantine than what we’re under. For example, we can (thankfully) still go outside for a walk as long as we keep the mandatory 6ft. apart. We can also go grocery shopping any time we want.

    For now at least. If things get much worse we might begin seeing a stricter form of lockdown in the future.

    Take care guys!

    1. Aww, you do care… you really do care! It’s definitely much tighter here, but I’m pretty convinced if things don’t start slowing down in the States soon, you’ll likely go through something similar.

      We’re pretty laid-back and resourceful like you guys though so if it does happen, just know it isn’t the end of the world. You’ll find plenty to keep you busy! In fact, Lisa was just saying last night that the days feel like they’re flying by with this lockdown. Seems like we’re really busy with fun projects and stuff right now. 🙂

  7. That’s a tough lockdown. I’m very glad we can still go outside. My son has so much energy. He needs to burn it off a bit. Although, I think 6 ft is not far enough. We probably should keep 12 ft apart.
    Unfortunately, I think a lot of US residents aren’t taking this problem seriously enough. The number of cases will surpass 1 million soon. We have a rough few months ahead of us. It’s a total failure of leadership. No preparation at all and they are reacting very slowly.

    Good job with homeschooling. I’m having a really tough time with our son.

    1. Yesterday, we just started running laps around our building – good for us, but also to help Faith burn off some energy. I think you’d be able to figure out ways to wear down your son, too. Gotta make do as best you can!

      Don’t feel bad about the homeschooling. It took us months until we started to feel like we had a decent routine going with Faith when we started last year… and it’s still a far cry from perfect! Faith whines about school a lot more than she ever did when she went to a physical school. I think kids just feel like they can get away with a little more with their parents. It also doesn’t help that none of us went to school to become teachers. 🙂

  8. You guys have got a beautiful view and great weather! The weather is one is pushing me to relocate to Hawaii as soon as the stupid lockdown is done. It is a pleasant 60° here in San Francisco, but it gets down to the mid 50s and that sucks. I’m just soft too.

    I don’t think I locked our last past July 1, so I will just continue to enjoy life down there!


    1. Haha, I’m soft when it comes to weather as well! I’ve never been but everything I read about Hawaii sounds like fantastic temps throughout the year. Can’t wait to hear more about your move if/when you decide to do it! In the meantime, yeah, San Fran’s not a bad place to be stuck riding things out. 🙂

  9. We’re here in FL, and we have rentals in Costa Rica, where the border is closed. We also considered CR our Plan B, but this pandemic requires a Plan C. We have property managers on the ground in CR, but we can’t wait to go back there and check on things. In the meantime, the US is chaotic too, so it sounds like you’re in a good situation where you are. Stay safe!

    1. I was reading about how the pandemic affected your plans, Caroline. It really threw some curveballs at all of us. It’s a good thing you guys are flexible and able to adapt as needed. Fingers crossed that you’ll be able to get back to Costa Rica and your properties in next month or so!

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