Other than cruising through Santiago by bus en route to Panama City, I've had little exposure to Panama's third largest city. This weekend I stayed in the home of some lovely Panamanian women, and we visited several areas of the city, as well as a few surrounding towns. The weather was hot with a capital "H". It was a nice change from the cold, damp and windy climate Boquete was experiencing. And there is so much more to the city than what is seen passing though on the Interamerican Highway. I'm seriously considering relocation there.
Santiago offers several of the big stores found in David and Panama City; ie Do It Center, Super 99, El Machetazo, Casa Gala, several educational facilities, and a few universities. There are also private medical clinics and a public hospital. What I didn't see was a blatant expat community. In fact, while attending an international festival in the town center on Saturday evening, I specifically looked for a stereotypical European, Canadian, or United States transplant. I didn't see any. I'm certain they are there, but they weren't easy to spot and that made me very happy. I ran into many Panamanians who were very competent English speakers. I wasn't looking for English-speaking Panamanians, but I quickly realized that I needed to be judicious when speaking English, because the odds were pretty good that the average man on the street would understand my comments. Education in Santiago seems to be a priority. Schools and centers of learning were prominent, and the buildings and grounds of the institutions were well-maintained. They seemed to be a source of pride. I'm thinking that if I can get past the heat, Santiago might be a serious relocation possibility. I did find a small town I absolutely loved, and spent a good deal of time exploring real estate opportunities there, but acknowledged that I need to be in an urban area to assure exceptional internet and phone availability. The outlying areas still aren't adequately serviced in this respect. Without internet and phone/fax lines, I can't work, so I'll probably need to sacrifice scenery for services. Property values seemed a little more reasonable, but I found no great bargains in my search of Veraguas, either.