Tag Archives: retiringtopanama

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!



Changing Cultures & Taking on Elder Care

Totsie Marine

Our Friend, Totsie, disappeared from Asheville, but we found her in Panama.  Here is her story.

Part 1: Making the Decision

“Wanda fell and broke her (other) arm. She is doing better but can’t remember why she has a cast on her arm.” This email came after we made the decision to move to Boquete, Panama and help take care of my 83 year-old mother-in-law, Wanda. It sealed the deal for us. We said we would come to Panama for a year.

How it came to be:  

My husband, Winn, and I had toyed with the idea of moving to Boquete after visiting there in January 2011. Winn’s brother, Kevin, and his wife, Tammy, had been taking care of Wanda for three years and had moved their whole family, including three school aged children, to Boquete about a year before our visit. Their decision to relocate there was based on Tammy’s parents, who had retired there, and their own research on cost of living, quality of medical care and the desire to scale down their expensive lifestyle in the states.

Family in Boquete

Winn and I have a web development business. I started the business in 1996 and he joined me in 2006. We re-branded the company in 2011 from Totsie.com to Webonobo and positioned it to be “Local Global Mobile Web Solutions”. We also had our site translated into Spanish to attract clients who needed multilingual sites. We had always been told “Oh, you could do your business from anywhere in the world.”, so now seemed to be the right time to see if that was true.

Our original thought was that we could move to Boquete, live near Kevin and Tammy and help take care of Wanda while continuing our business. We knew we would have a cable internet connection and with modern conveniences like Skype, we could still have personal connections to our clients.

The deciding factors:

One factor in our decision to move was that our business had slowed, like most businesses in the states, and while we still had a stable roster of 60+ clients which we host and support, the requests for new sites had slowed to a trickle. Even though we had re-branded and felt positive about the new direction, we were still in the early stages of marketing our new global potential.

Another important factor came when I had a reading with an intuitive in Asheville who helped me admit the fact that I was personally burned out. Being entirely self-taught, self-motivated, self-marketed, I had been working long days for 16 years and even though I thought I had a few good business years left in me, the truth came out in the reading and I had to admit that I was just plain tired, that I had become one-dimensional in giving all my energy to the business and what I really wanted was a big change in lifestyle.  

When I told Winn about my true feelings he immediately said “Absolutely, no problem, I can take over the business. I want you to rest and find yourself.” His next thought was that HE wanted to meet with the intuitive. In truth, he had been wanting to change the hectic lifestyle we had created but hadn’t figured out how to make that happen. So now he was motivated to not only take over the helm but also to do it in his style and at his pace.

And yet a third factor is the fact that I turn 62 on March 6, 2012. Yes, I’m a baby boomer. It seemed unreal to me that people really used to retire at 62 but here I was actually considering it! Of course I would have to give up the CEO position in the company and work less hours to qualify for Social Security but that quickly became a no-brainer. Winn, being 5 years younger than me, still felt excited about our rebranding efforts and could see himself running the business with me as co-pilot.

Running the numbers:

Winn loves spreadsheets so he spread us out in all the ways he could think of to evaluate the wisdom of our move. No matter how you sliced it, it looked like a really good idea!

Based on Kevin and Tammy’s experiences and cost of living, he decided that (as the new CEO) we could offer our services at a lower rate to our clients since our cost of living would be lower in Panama and that would create a win-win for our clients, who had smaller marketing budgets because of the downturn in the economy, and us who had lower living expenses. We could continue running the business, just on a smaller more sustainable pace. We would be living internationally which could eventually meet one of our rebranding goals which was to produce multilingual sites for international clients. We both got excited about the positive possibilities of this move and after we found a great renter for our house-someone I already had an acquaintance with who is in our industry-we felt like the light was green to go.

Part II – Next Monday!  In the meantime, Happy Birthday Totsie.