Tag Archives: panama

Totsie Marine: Changing Cultures & taking on Elder Care: Part 2

The Reality of Daily Life

The Wanda Reality


After we got to Panama, it became obvious that Kevin’s family was burned out on elder care and we decided that we would take on living with Wanda full time. We moved into their house which was set up with fences and gates to keep her safe from wandering and they found another house that was more suitable for their family.

The first month taking care of Wanda was challenging. We were adjusting to her requirements (coffee must be HOT, plates must be WARMED for breakfast, specific breakfast and lunch menus could only have the slightest of variances, and a few other personal quirks that came out over time).

Beyond these must-have’s she is a very pleasant person to be with and she has a good sense of humor. Her health is excellent but her short-term memory loss is the biggest limiting factor in her life. It keeps her from enjoying movies (can’t remember the plot line) and from being in groups of people talking about multiple subjects (she picks up her purse and tries to leave – once going down the street away from a Christmas party before she was missed).


The Scrabble factor

Wanda’s only daily interest in life is Scrabble (and crossword puzzles when she can’t get a Scrabble partner). We have now settled into a routine of Scrabble after each meal and other games as often as we have time during the day. We tried to wear her out one rainy Sunday but after 7 games we were the ones calling ‘Uncle’ and quitting the tournament.

 Changing Cultures

I know some conversational Spanish so I have been able to cobble together enough information to get what we need and understand what is needed of us. Now that we are settled into a routine, we plan to start Spanish classes and I want to take a yoga class given by an expat. My hobby is photography so I have taken one class in encaustic painting as a possible segue into another way of presenting my work. We find the expat community very active and supportive and we have been lucky to live next to a Panamanian family that speaks some English.


We have experienced some frustration about how things are done here like getting the electric bill by email (I shouldn’t complain – it used to arrive by motorcycle) but having to stand in line to pay in cash in person downtown. There is no mail delivery and there are no house numbers which makes it tricky when you are having new furniture delivered. And when you buy something like an electrical appliance, you have to wait while a slow moving clerk unpacks it, plugs it in and shows you that it is working and then re-packages it and tapes it up for you to take home. But we can tell we are gradually slowing down, becoming more patient with Wanda and ourselves, and learning to live at a different pace.

Looking at it from 2 months in

At this point we have been here 2 months. Tonight we went to our favorite Italian restaurant, which we can walk to in 20 minutes if it’s not raining, and celebrated 6 years working together. Lots of my friends said they would never work with their husbands. We certainly had our days of stress but ultimately we both wanted it to work and our livelihood depended on us working well together so we quickly got over whatever gripe-of-the-day it was.

As we sipped a nice Genovese wine, enjoyed a fresh salad and crunchy crust pizza, we both realized that we feel like we have been here a lot longer than 2 months…like maybe 6 months…or maybe longer. We feel more relaxed. We feel at home here.


Our clients have been very supportive and pleased with our new pricing schedule. Wanda thanks us every day for taking such good care of her. We still are intrigued by day to day things…from the strange way they cut up chicken parts to the kindness of armed guards who open store doors for you! All in all we are very pleased with this move and are looking forward to getting to know ourselves and the Panamanian culture this year.

I am keeping a journal of our Year in Panama, and there you can sign up to be notified when I post a new entry.

Wish us luck!