Friday, March 12, 2010

Just a Little Reflection

“Why not move to Panama with me and figure something out with our lives?” This question is most likely not one many people get asked by a person they’ve only been dating for a month. I guess it was strange for me to ask him, but at the time, I was scheduled to depart for Panama March 23rd and it was March 20th and I wasn’t quite sure what in the heck I was going to do once I got here or where I was going to live. All I knew was that I wanted to get rid of the emptiness I felt in the States with no opportunity and try to see if I could manage living in another country.

Now, fate has a funny way of working itself out, especially in my life, so about an hour after asking him this question I started shaking uncontrollably and developed a severe fever which turned into a real bad kidney infection. Justin came with me to the Doctor’s office where I was informed that traveling would be out of the question for at least 10 days. At the time I wasn’t really able to think about what to do but knew that I wanted him there with me.

Justin, my semi-boyfriend at the time was living in Connecticut and looking for a job after just coming back from a 7 month journey through Mexico, Central, and South America. He came back in December, 2008 to almost no job opportunity anywhere in the dismal US economy. That same day I was diagnosed with a kidney infection he received news from his only job prospect that he didn’t receive the position he was seeking as a management position with Operation Smile in South America because he didn’t speak Spanish.

His first words after getting off the phone with the Operation Smile representative was, “Well, I guess I’m coming with you to Panama.” Somehow I managed a huge smile in between my convulsions of pain. We departed for Panama April 7, 2007 and we’ve been together since!

After about a month of taking Spanish lessons in Bocas Del Toro (we both didn’t really know the language before moving), we decided we were about ready to start working somehow (money ran out). I thought of a few ideas and knew I wanted to do something in the real estate industry here in Panama. We both agreed we didn’t want to be another salesperson in Panama, there’s enough of those already. We wanted to make our own mark and add a service to an industry that is rapidly growing, rapidly changing, and in need of professional realistic marketing.

What we’ve created is Panama Lens ( We provide HD video tours and HDR photography for real estate in and around Panama City. We showcase not only the individual property in a free flowing walk through style, but we also show the surrounding area, the amenities, and give a little taste of what it’s actually like to live in Panama now. After researching this business idea and the market in Panama for a month, we went back to the States, purchased our equipment, came back in July 2009 and have been working ever since.

It’s been a huge learning experience for me and Justin as well. What we’ve learned is that we make a wonderful team. “So he’s the tech, and you are the face,” is what is usually said from most of our clients. We laugh and say sure but it’s more than that. Justin is extremely intelligent with computers, editing, and photography. And with my background in real estate (both my parents are real estate agents in the DC/MD area and have been my whole life. I am a licensed real estate agent as well since 2008 and worked in MD at ReMax for almost a year), I do the research, write the scripts, provide the on camera presence and voice over.

We’ve been really happy with our decision to start a business in Panama. I still can’t figure out why I wanted to move to Panama a year or so ago when I wasn’t with Justin. I get that question a lot and for the most part it’s just that I wanted to try something different, I wasn’t ready for grad school, I wasn’t into moving back to my hometown and continue to search for some kind of job that would give me a so called “purpose” for all that hard work in college nor did I think Justin was into that either.

So here we are, progressing, evolving, and working hard on our baby, Panama Lens. It’s been a fun ride and we have learned an incredible amount about each other. We are a great team and only look forward to the future here in Panama!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

One after the other

It boggles my mind that with such a small community of expats in Panama, there are SOOOOOO many parties. I absolutely love getting invitations and hate turning them down. I have never have I had to turn down so many events in my life since I've moved here. I mean, there's literally something to do every single evening while living in the Casco. It's sort of a love hate relationship with the invites because we can't go to these wild parties and actually work the next day. We've promised ourselves that we are only going to go out one night a week and for the most part have lived up to that.

Our one night out this past week was a Surprise Birthday party for our new friend Julian. It was a fantastic event at Callejon del Gato with food, drinking and dancing! : )

We'll be going to Casco Viejo's first Art Walk this Thursday! Super Pumped! Pictures for that will be next week! Ciao

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chinese New Year, Valentines day/Carnival all celebrated Sunday, February 14th at our friend Matt Landau's apartment 2 blocks away in Casco Viejo. We spent the early morning going to the veggie market with our neighbors, then to the pool at the Miramar, then to the BBQ/Party. It was such a festive event with Bright feathered masks, tons of alcohol, and a bit of tasty treats.

Life is pretty spectacular. It's hard at times but I couldn't really ask for anything better! : )

I think I'll get back into blogging. Maybe just some short things every now and then..... Until then, Ciao!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stay Positive, especially when you are tired!

Positive things…

1. Panama Lens

2. Being in love with my amazing boyfriend

3. Having a supportive and loving family

4. Living in Casco Viejo

5. Living in a country full of expats & entrepreneurs

6. Living in a beautiful country

7. Feeling a sense of accomplishment at 23…. : )

Tomorrow I am headed to Bocas Del Toro with my parents, brother, and Justin. This month has been thus far Panama Len’s most busy and successful. Though we haven’t seen it through monetary ways, the future is looking great. We’ve taken on some larger projects that are very interesting, and much more difficult in terms of time, and knowledge.

Justin has turned on his computer learning skills full fledge teaching himself new google earth map tricks, animated 3D logo techniques, as well as mastered the steadicam to become a lot more artistic with filming.

I have really enjoyed researching the details for all the new projects and writing out the scripts. I’ve also been tested in working on my voice for different types of videos (the Royal Casino Poker Room Video), and have gotten better at losing some of those nerves I get when others besides Justin are in the room when I am doing my on camera. With each video we produce we evolve a little more. I’m getting better with memorizing my lines, being on camera in front of a crowd, and Justin is definitely becoming an artistic video director, editor, producer, and photographer.

These next three days in Bocas will hopefully be a chance to take a much needed break from working. When you start a business there seems that there is always something to do. It’s amazing how little free time we have. Thank god we have eachother and can goof around from time to time because if not we’d go insane. With the little accomplished we have day to day, the work and time pays off. We’re hoping that all this work we’ve been putting into these larger video projects will pay off in monetary terms and possibly create for us a wonderful, more comfortable living…until then, we’re keeping it classy in the simple life. : )

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Random Thoughts…

It’s been two and a half months since we’ve moved into Casco and started Panama Lens.  Things are good, no they are great, but I’m not going to bore you with another blog about success, luck, love, etc….Evan's Party 010

   Last week there was a shooting about 3 blocks from our apartment.  A restaurant worker and a French tourist were shot by a 16 and 17 year old on Friday evening at 9:30.  The kids were part of a gang, one of the many that exist in the Santa Ana and Chorrillo neighborhoods that are close by Casco Viejo. 

   One thing that is the consensus between the Casco residents is that the gang members were targeting the restaurant worker and the French tourist got in the line of fire while reacting to the gunshots not aimed at him.  Justin and I walk by the restaurant most evenings and the worker who we presume was the one that was shot is there usually chatting with the sketchy looking gang members of the neighborhood.  This guy is a bit arrogant and pushy when we walk by to get in the restaurant since it’s new.  As I am a firm believer in promoting a place and trying to drive in traffic, there’s a line that one shouldn’t cross and standing in the way of people passing by is not a way to pleasantly bring people in.  That worker has always rubbed me the wrong way.  Other Casco residents agree with me that he probably was targeted by this gang.  One thing that Casco residents know is that yes, there are some dangers with living here but for the most part, any violence that occurs is usually between the street gangs and not towards tourists or gringos.  Where I am going with this is that after reading Panama-Guide and other newspapers, they changed the story to “2 French Tourists shot in Casco Viejo!”  These newspaper articles are twisting the story around to make people believe that two tourists were targeted at a restaurant in the nice part of Casco.  Fear is not something that we should bring among the people who are Casco skeptics.  What I’ve learned from living in NYC or ANYWHERE is to always be aware of your surroundings, if you feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and feel like something bad is going to happen, get out or exit the situation, and live your life not in fear, but with caution.  The important thing is not to dwell because some things are out of your hands.  I’m not trying to ramble, I’m just enforcing my belief to live your life  not in fear. 

     Panama is changing day to day for the better.  People are amazing here.  It’s a wonderful place and we’re so happy to be making our mark in this small country.  With that said, there’s everyday annoyances, language and culture barriers, and obstacles to deal with.  Life isn’t perfect but it’s very close and I can’t say that I could be any happier doing ANYTHING ELSE ANYWHERE ELSE….Ok, there’s my thoughts for tonight.  Hasta Luego!


Love, Mara

Thursday, September 10, 2009

“It seems the harder I work, the luckier I get.”


     In the third grade I had to choose a quote that meant something to me.  Picking out quotes in the third grade is a bit of a challenge since much of life has yet to be lived.  My mother helped me choose this quote because she truly believed in it, “It seems the harder I work, the luckier I get.”  This quote is by Abraham Lincoln and at the time of being in the third grade, I think that I had already experienced how hard work can lead to accomplishing great things.  I’ve never been the quickest learner, but hard working I am which has led me to many wonderful accomplishments as being top in the class, winning dance competitions, getting an academic college scholarship, and now, starting up a business doing something I love!

     I’m currently reading the book, “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell.  It’s all about people in this world, past and present, who have succeeded, and why they succeeded. It also explains why a lot of the reason pertains to luck, but luck can only take you so far.  Luck is something like being born in January if you play hockey because you most likely are more athletically ready than your younger peers born in the same year.  Or, luck is an instance of culture, like in China, the Chinese learn to count to higher numbers at an earlier age because of their language numeral system being less confusing than in English.  Therefore more Chinese people are good a mathematics because less of them struggled at an earlier age.  Luck is the time period you are born in, sometimes within a 5 year span you can be born in the precise boom for a new technology.  Luck is also related to those people who were surrounded by people and instances that helped them along the way. 

     He explains the importance of luck, but also emphases practice and hard work as a key ingredient to success.  10,000 seems to be the magic number.  For musicians, computer engineers, hockey players, etc., he states that combined with 10,000 hours of hard work and the presence of luck, a person will be a successful “outlier” surpassing the competition.

     I’m not saying in any way that I feel like I’m an outlier, but I do feel very fortunate about my life.  I feel fortunate for my family, my friends, and my education.  I also feel that I work really hard for what I do and can’t be here today, doing what I’m doing without that combination.  So far Justin and I have put in many hours into our business, Panama Lens, but there is a lot more to practice, learn, and achieve through it.  Optimism, luck, hard work, and practice is all important, and the harder I do work, the luckier I seem to get.  : )  So to this day I think about that quote and take it to heart as I did back then when I struggled with reading.  It’s amazing how much a little extra hard work can change everything…


<3, Mara

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Time goes by…


I haven’t been very good with posting new blogs since we’ve been working on our business.  It’s not because life has been lacking interesting encounters or beautiful scenery, we’ve had our share of both, but it’s because time has changed from day to day.  Time was once that part of our lives that was abundant and plenty and now, we get up every morning at 6am and find ourselves at midnight still working on something wondering where all that precious valuable time went. 

Panama July 2009 099

With each day, we become one step further in setting up our business.  Our website is up,, our website video is completed, as well as our first video.  The HDR photography that Justin has taken of the property is absolutely stunning and we currently have two properties on deck this coming week to complete.  Within one month we’ve set all this up and have taken off to what hopefully will be a successful HD Real Estate Video Tour Company for Panama.  At 23 years old and Justin at 24 this is something we are very proud of.  I’m not going to lie, it scares the bejesus out of me but the confidence I have in the both of us as a team to do this and do it well is incredible. 

Isla Grande 024