January 25, 2023
Saludos de Panama!
I’m writing this newsletter looking out over the view above, listening to the waves. It’s a gorgeous day here in the Republic of Panama, with a fresh breeze keeping the heat at bay.
Back home, temperatures are in the 60s during the day, 50s at night, and it’s cloudy. Not winter like I experienced in Vermont, but still winter and too cool for my liking. I come here to get away from all that.
I arrived after an arduous two days of travel. I won’t bore you with the gory details, but it began with a 3 AM announcement that my 6 AM flight was delayed and wouldn’t be taking off until after my connecting flight to Panama had left. After the airline rebooked me on another carrier, I made my connection but my big suitcase, with everything I think I’ll need for 10 weeks of my life, didn’t.
But it’s okay, because I’m here now. (My suitcase finally made it, too.)
Since I arrived I’ve had a chance to connect with some old friends, meet some new ones, and chill. (Well, the chilling is metaphorical as it’s actually quite warm here.) Shortly after I got here I walked around to the ocean side of the property and just stood there. With the sound of the waves in my ears, and that expanse of blue water, I could feel my whole body unclench. Whoosh.
Tips & Tools
Last weekend was a big country-wide festival in the nearby town of Las Tablas, where we used to live. It’s called Mil Pollera, and it celebrates the traditional Panamanian dress. This year’s parade featured more than 9,000 entrants!
Several ladies from Panama City arrived to stay at this little B&B by the sea, and we got to see them preparing for the big event. It’s quite a big deal. They had hired a makeup artist, and a photographer.
Preparation took a long time, as the makeup is elaborate and the hair — well, the hair starts with two tight braids curled around above the ears – think Princess Leia.
Next, they pin dozens of tembliques, “tremblers,” into the hair. These are fancy flowers made of shells, and other materials. They completely cover the sides of the head.
Then come the polleras, the dresses themselves, which are hand made and include lots of lace and embroidery. Making a pollera involves multiple, highly skilled seamstresses, and they cost thousands of dollars.
The flowers are all hand embroidered, and the lace is handmade as well
Last is the gold jewelry. Chains, medallions, hair ornaments, it’s a lot.
Women care for the polleras carefully and pass them down from one generation to the next. One of the ladies wore a dress that was over 100 years old, and it looked as fresh and beautiful as the day it was made.
The parade itself goes on for hours, with delegations of pollera-wearers from communities, businesses, and government agencies all over the country. And it’s not a parade wear the participants merely walk or march, they dance. Constantly. For hours.
Welcome to Panamá!
Creativity is an elusive thing, but one thing we know about it is that change helps.
According to Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research:
“New ideas arise from an interconnection of old ideas. So that means, at the very least, you have to be exposed to a novel stimulus. It gets you thinking thoughts and combinations that you’ve never experienced before. It’s those interconnections among different ideas. That’s where new ideas come from. And your environment helps to create those interconnections. And the good news is, to some extent, we all can control our surroundings.”– How Making Small Changes to Your Environment Can Produce a Big Boost in Your Creativity
There are also lots of benefits to spending time near the ocean.
Being close to the ocean releases feel-good chemicals. In fact, for the first few days I was here I was feeling so entranced I didn’t want to move or do anything.
To call it relaxing is a huge understatement. The sound of the waves de-stimulates the brain. It’s one of the best forms of white noise to help with stress and promote sleep, and it’s even more powerful in person.
Then there’s the ocean’s blue colors (because it’s made up of many different shades of blue). Blue is associated with calmness, and staring at the waves can actually change your brain waves and bring you into a meditative state
The sea air can help with breathing problems, and sea water can help clear up skin infections and problems like eczema.
When I lived in Panama (back in 2012-2014), I found that, after a few weeks of hearing Spanish spoken all around me, my writing (in English) improved — that’s the kind of creative boost that can happen when you change where you are.
Of course, it’s not necessary to go hundreds of miles to make a change that will help fire up those creative synapses — just taking your laptop to the library or the coffee shop and working there instead of in your office can be enough of a change to help you make those new connections.
I’ll be here firing up those creative juices for the next couple months.
Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. That means, if you click and purchase, you pay exactly the same amount and I’ll earn a small commission. These fees help me to keep the free information flowing.
In Case You Missed It. . .
Did you know I have an entire Panama section on this site? That’s because I spent 2-1/2 years living here. You’ll find all the Panama articles by following this link.
For now, enjoy this recap I wrote after the first year of living in the town of Las Tablas.
I moved to Panama as an expat one year ago.
On March 13, 2012, I landed — along with my mini-mountain of luggage — at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City.
I had no definite plans. I’d reserved a room at the Centrum Tower Hotel in Panama City for the first night, but everything after that was a mystery.
Explore Life. Create Anywhere.
On random Wednesdays, I’ll email you the best hand-picked tools, tips, and information to help you do your best creative work from anywhere.
No spam. Promise.