Bill’s eyes light up when he talks about the birds and animals who share his new home. He and Judie have monkeys, toucans and big parrots adding charm to their days now. They have coatimundis (similar to a raccoon), jaguarundis (bigger than a housecat, smaller than a panther), and tiny white-tailed deer that prance across their property. Not to mention a million dollar view of Isla Cañas and the Pacific that steals first your breath and then your time. It’s a miracle they get anything done there.
When the concept of building their own home in Panama first arose, Judie knew that nothing would do but an ocean view. Bill was skeptical. He had heard about the prices in Pedasi and the Playa Venao area and didn’t think they could afford it. But Super Shopper Judie was undaunted. She widened their search area and they were both delighted to find a piece of land on top of ridge overlooking Isla Cañas. From their new vantage you can watch the surf sweep onto Cañas, tide pools form, the formation across the bay called Crocodile Head, and the cows in the meadow next to the beach. Bill chuckles. “The chitras (chiggers) are worst in late afternoon. We watch the cows down there in the meadow. When they head for the beach to escape the chitras, we head inside and shut the place up. Those cows are our chitra alarm system.”
Was it stressful building their gorgeous new home? Oh, yes. Would they do it again? In a heartbeat. “And I’d have a better house the second time, because of what I learned.”
What did they learn? For one thing, there is no such thing as a “perfect house.” There is no such thing as a truly square corner. “Of course,” says Bill, “that’s true in the U.S. as well. And you can only anticipate problems so much.
“Don’t expect U.S. quality here. In a different country, they build differently. If you want a house that is like one you might buy in the U.S., hire someone from the States to come down and build it for you or be up to it yourself. Or stay in the U.S. Accept that it’s different here and deal with it. If you can’t, you don’t belong here.”
A couple of things happened (that could also have happened in the U.S.) that were absolutely flabbergasting. First, there was the gap in the roof between the building and the porch. A design screw-up, to be kind about it. And then there is the shower floor, in which the water flows downhill to the end without the drain.
Judie and Bill are both emphatic that when you start building the house your contractor needs to know and understand that if he or his people do something without your knowledge and approval, you will have them stop, take it out and do it over. You have to have an eagle eye on every single thing and have it understood up front that if the work’s not right, it will be done over.
They are very happy in their new home. Judie says there’s still a lot to do, but she enjoys the view so much that it isn’t happening too rapidly. Why should it? After all, they are retired, in paradise.