I'm just a few shades darker than Casper the Friendly Ghost and still speak very rough Spanish, so I am always amused when people assume I'm Panamanian. (Interestingly, Panamanians NEVER assume I am Panamanian. Even when my husband jokes with people he has just met and tells them that I'm Panamanian, they always know I'm 100% North American.)
In some ways, Panama is like a mini-me United States, as it's a melting pot of different cultures. I've met people from all over the world, many of whom choose to call Panama home--some for a few months a year and others year-round.
Now, when people meet me and ask me questions such as, "Your accent is so interesting. Where is it from?" I've started answering that I'm from Texifornia. After all, I've lost my California Valley Girl, and I never quite got my Texas drawl, so it's just easiest to say I'm half and half. But make no mistake, I'm all American.
I didn't move to Panama because I was running away from something. I wasn't escaping a bad relationship or leaving the country as a political statement. I moved because I like the weather in Panama, and I love the natural beauty. I can live a better quality life here for less money, so the package of "much more for much less" is what attracted me.
My Panamanian friends tell me I act like a Panamanian because we have a weekend place at the beach. All middle- and upper-class Panamanians leave the city Friday mid-afternoon and spend the weekend at their beach house. I've never had a beach house before, and now I have a weekend place that's right on the Caribbean, and a work-week condo that oozes luxury and has fabulous views of the Pacific Ocean.
I love the U.S. but I could never have one condo there with ocean views, let alone one on the Pacific and one on the Caribbean. That's the best part of Panama... more for less means that I can live the lifestyle of the rich and famous without actually being rich or famous.
You do, now.
Let me know if you want to plan a visit. I'll show you MY Panama. But you have to promise to not ask me how my English got to be so good.