This is the time of year to remember, recalibrate, regroup, and reset your sights.
Where have you been… and, more important, where are you going from here?
For Lief and me, as we stand on the threshold of 2019, the answer to that question has a great deal to do with a piece of beachfront property that we bought, nearly a decade ago now, on Panama’s Azuero Sunset Coast.
Finally, our vision for this stretch of Pacific paradise is becoming clearer.
Lief and I like to wander. At this stage, though, while we still prize change and contrast, we’re increasingly preoccupied with an urge to establish roots… to build a home for ourselves and our children in a place where our neighbors share our ideas about what’s important and interesting… and where we’re all able to embrace the best of Mother Nature while also enjoying the comfort and convenience of top-end 21st-century living.
A place where we and our families can live independently, even self-sufficiently… while enjoying each other’s company and also contributing and helping to improve the greater local community all around us.
This is our plan for Los Islotes, as our Azuero Sunset Coast undertaking is called.
On this stretch of the crashing Pacific we are working to create a society for people who appreciate the beautiful natural setting, the privacy, safety, and elbow room this part of Panama offers, and the prospect of settling down long term, full- or maybe only part-time, among like-minded folks with similar perspectives and priorities.
Our efforts are building momentum. We’re one of the biggest employers in the region already, and, in 2019, our workforce will continue to grow.
Our teams are laying pipes, cutting roads, and building houses.
They’re planting trees, creating gardens, designing stables, and fencing off corrals for our first horses (who we’ve named Señora Cortez, Drake, and Guadeloupe).
With high season for this part of the world just around the corner, they’re also sprucing up our Panama Jack’s beach bar and generally pruning, clearing, cleaning, and applying a fresh coat of paint.
Los Islotes is reshaping this part of Panama and becoming a big force in the local community.
And Lief and I are getting to know our neighbors.
One of them told us something recently that got my attention. She explained that the schools in the region have trouble finding good teachers.
“As you know, there are three little schools in the area around Los Islotes,” she told me. “All of the kids who attend walk to reach the schools each day.
“Some of these kids,” she continued, “walk up to two or three hours each way. The trouble is, many days they arrive at school to find no teacher.
“Some of the teachers are more committed than others, but it’s not unusual for a teacher not to show up…”
If a kid so wants to learn that he’ll walk three hours to get to the nearest schoolhouse, someone ought to be there when he shows up to teach him something.
We’ve been trying to support these little schools for the past few years. We’ve donated books, computers, and other materials and supplies. It’s been a well-intentioned but ad-hoc, irregular, and, I realize, far from comprehensive effort.
One of my primary 2019 goals is to step things up on this front. With the help of our Los Islotes Project Manager Carlos Correa, we’re going to open this year a Student Center for kids in the area interested in learning. It’s a first step toward starting a school.
A landowner in the area has donated a piece of land in a central location. Live and Invest Overseas and Los Islotes will provide the money to build and outfit a four-room schoolhouse. We’ll hire an administrator and recruit additional volunteers to help her with teaching and tutoring.
As we’ve done with all our overseas operations over the past decades, we’ll begin small and let things evolve organically. To start, the Student Center will offer English-language classes, computer literacy classes, after-school tutoring, and a lending library.
Of all the plans I’ve made for this New Year, this is the one I’m most excited about. If I could, I’d move out to Los Islotes and volunteer my own services. Pitching in to build this little schoolhouse and then spending time there each day with the kids from the area who make their way to it seems a worthwhile pursuit.
I share this plan with you in case you intend to be in this part of Panama and might be interested in becoming involved. Starting sometime in 2019, we’ll be in the market for someone to help manage our Student Center, as well as a couple of good teachers.
Primary qualification is that you promise to show up.