Read Next

First Impressions of Panama (Day 2)

On Tynan

We've been in Panama for two days now, but it seems like weeks. There's obviously still TONS to explore around the city, but I'm already comfortable here and it even feels a bit familiar.

First of all, I love it. For me it has the ideal balance between chaos and structure. It's very safe... people are at least as friendly as they are in the US, if not moreso. They go out of their way to help us and put up with our mediocre Spanish. Our hotel right now isn't in a great area (though not a bad one either), and I feel totally safe walking a few blocks to go to a diner.
Even though it's safe, there don't seem to be a lot of minor enforced rules. Taxi drivers ignore speed limits and stop signs. The drinking and gambling age is 18, but I've heard even that's not enforced. You don't get the feeling that you're being overprotected or treated like a child.

The food has been MUCH better than expected. There are several vegetarian cafeterias that we've found already which are incredibly good and cheap. The one we visited tonight was owned by a very friendly Chinese couple (have you ever heard Chinese people speak Spanish?). There were maybe forty different dishes they had, and a serving of any one was only fifty cents. I asked for orange juice without sugar (most fruit drinks here have sugar) and they fresh squeezed it for me for only $1!

Why I want to learn Italian

On Change Labs Beta Emma2014

I have been trying to learn Italian now for about ten years.

Every year I'd come back from Italy at the end of September and sign up to a new course. I'd go to class most weeks but feel like I wasn't getting anywhere. Night classes aren't the ideal way to learn if you're a morning person and classes ended in June so by the time I went to Italy again in September I'd have forgotten it all. Over time I guess I improved a bit but not enough to feel confident.

Last year it all changed. We came into a little bit of money, enough to decide that it was time to buy our (eventual) retirement home in Italy. Suddenly we were in Italian estate agencies where no one spoke any English, learning a whole new vocabulary. Then we were negotiating. Then talking to lawyers and surveyors and banks. Luckily for us, a lot of this was about listening rather than talking. And people had very good incentives to make themselves understood.

But now I'm into another new world of Italian utilities and public services where the onus will definitely be on me to communicate. And builders and painters and locksmiths where I need to be able to tell them what I want. Experience so far suggests that they will understand only when it suits, so I need to get better. And fast.

At the minute I'm feeling overwhelmed by options. I've started attending classes again but the only ones available locally are way below my level. And they only run for five weeks. I've got dozens of books, both grammar and literature, and a lot of websites. I've got podcasts that download automatically. The one thing I don't have is a good habit. I know that early mornings are my best time but they're already committed with exercise and meditation. So I need to figure out where I can find time whilst my brain is still working.

Rendering New Theme...