Too Busy to be Retired in Panama’s Highlands

I am a doer, not an observer, and so the traditional concept of retirement doesn’t work for me. After years of exhausting 50-hour work weeks, I moved to the mountain town of Boquete. Today I’m surrounded by undulating verdant hills, rainbow-hued casitas, and fragrant flowers. I finally have the luxury of rising every day at my leisure and deciding what activity to participate in…and here in Boquete, there are so many groups and activities that I’m almost too busy to be retired.

Having spent many years in the fashion industry, traveling the world looking for inspiration and photographing trends, I am now free to turn that profession into a hobby. There’s a club here, Boquete PhotoGrafia, that inspires and nurtures all level of photographers. We meet twice a month to share member’s bodies of work, enjoy lectures on topics of interest, and often to venture out into the streets and countryside for on-location shooting.

Each month a photographer is offered space in the library to display their work which will hang for a month. A Friday night cocktail hour kicks off these showings.

Another creative pursuit I enjoy is beading. A small group of us get together on Wednesday afternoons and create whatever moves us; necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. We recently discovered a bead store in the nearby city of David, enabling us to replenish our supplies. I love being able to immerse myself in this craft, it is a form of total relaxation for me, although I must admit, we do like to chat a bit to keep current on the Boquete comings and goings.

I’m also an animal lover, and therefore happily work with two organizations whose mission it is to make the animals of Boquete healthier and happier. Dozens of volunteers aid the vets each month in checking the animals in, administering shots, monitoring the recovery of the patients, and doing routine personal hygiene on pets.

For mindless entertainment, I turn to our Movie Group, where we meet at a member’s house to watch newly released movies. A glass of wine or basil lemonade, popcorn, and many, many salty sweets combine to make a delightful afternoon.

In addition to all these regular activities, there are special events that occur throughout the year. In January, we have the Feria de la Flores y del Café, or Flower and Coffee Fair, two products for which Boquete is world famous. It features over 450 vendors and this year attracted more than 150,000 visitors. Thousands of brilliant flowers were planted the length and breadth of the fairground. The fragrance was intoxicating and competed with the food vendors offering everything from margaritas to cotton candy. Coffee was served at tastings and also sold by the cup.

There are also frequent art shows held at the library. A recent exhibit was entitled “Something Personal.” In this juried show, artists involved in many different mediums displayed their art; photography, paintings in watercolor and acrylics, fabric weavings and compositions, and collages. At the Friday night opening, dozens of people mingled and admired the displays over wine and snacks.

I overheard a couple, obviously new in town, marveling at how such a small community could have so much talent.

I laughed to myself thinking…who has time to be retired here? Not me.

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