Today, September 22nd, is Andrew Blikken’s (The Gringo Grande) birthday, and I want to dedicate this post as the greatest proof of my affection. My fondness for this giant goes beyond mere brotherhood; it defines the true meaning of FRIENDSHIP. Friendship with all its letters, one in which joys, sorrows, scoldings, and advice blend together like a grand kaleidoscope of colors and shapes, or a roller coaster with its steep climbs, rapid descents, sharp turns, and occasional gentle rides.
Having Andrew as a friend has been a wonderful experience that has allowed me to get to know a culture very different from my own, a way of life that is more prosaic and much less dramatic. And even when it is less colorful, it is filled with a certain elegance that makes it very interesting.
We first contacted Andrew in September 2016 through a mutual friend who mentioned that Andrew needed a virtual assistant. Although the role initially fell to my husband, Ben, we discovered that the job profile suited my talents and needs better, so I took on the role of assistant. It wasn’t until February 2017 that we met him and Lisa personally when they attended the first Panama Global Banking Summit. It was truly an enriching and extraordinary experience that strengthened our professional ties and marked the beginning of our great friendship.
During that first trip, I introduced them to the watercolors of my homeland, taking them on a subway ride, and shopping at the largest mall in Central America. We also had a very Panamanian dinner, visited the Panama Canal, and explored the Casco Viejo. Although I would have liked to show them many more things, time was not on our side. But from then until today, we have remained close, creating new horizons and embarking on new projects.
The Visits of the Gringo Grande
Over the following years, Andrew’s visits to Panama became more frequent. Sometimes he was accompanied by Lisa, other times he came alone. Whether with family or solo, each visit was a great adventure.
Playing with the Kids
One of the things I admire most about Andrew is that during his visits, he always made time for my children and enjoyed their company, just like another kid or that favorite uncle everyone loves.
Trips to the Beach
His visits were never very long, so our adventures were confined to city and the beaches of the Panamanian Pacific corridor. This didn’t make them any less enjoyable, although they were often filled with mishaps, like the time he flipped in a RZR or when I went flying off a banana boat and broke a rib. It was all part of the adventure.
Panama offers an unparalleled nightlife, as befits the cosmopolitan city it is. So, our parties were always fun and full of music and dancing.
The Last Visit
On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, a plane landed at Tocumen International Airport, bringing Andrew for another edition of the Panama Global Banking Summit. While Ben and I waited at the terminal for the flight’s arrival, the news declared the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As expected, the banking congress was canceled, as were all mass gatherings.
For four days, Andrew was a guest in our home, and we shared true camaraderie. Even though it was extremely challenging, we managed to find a flight that would take him back to his wife and child on Sunday. One day before his departure, we went to the beach, unaware that it would be the last time we would enjoy his pleasant company for a long while.
We said goodbye at the airport with the hope of seeing each other again soon, believing that the shadow of COVID would only be a passing cloud in our sky.
The Fall of an Empire
Everybody says that what goes up must come down, and I don’t know how true that is. But what seemed and appeared to be the great work empire we had conquered deflated one day, like a balloon. Trust in the wrong people and the impact of the pandemic destroyed everything we had built and forced us to reinvent ourselves, to create new ways of working, to strive for new paths, and to start from scratch.
Many times it seemed that our paths would diverge, but for some unknown reason, our destinies were determined to cross again. And this time, for a project that, although sometimes seems very complicated, challenges us every day, and demands that we give a little bit more than the extra mile, at least for me, it has given me the joy of knowing that the creative spark that lay dormant inside me has awakened and is capable of building, recreating, and reinventing the world and even the universe.
Until We Meet Again
Since that Sunday in 2020, we haven’t seen each other again. But while we wait for the reunion that I know will happen soon, we take joy in knowing that we are still connected, building and sharing dreams for ourselves and our children. What was once a professional relationship has turned us into a family.
On this special day, I wish the world would give Andrew its brightest smile, that the universe would conspire to make him happy, that all his dreams come true, and that he conquers the empire that awaits him.
Cheers to many more!
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is Andrew and why is he important in the Ana’s life?
Andrew is the owner of this site and a close friend of Ana. Their friendship has become a valuable and enduring bond.
How old is Andrew Blikken?
Wise men say that never reveals your age, but Andrew is turning 41.
Why does Ana see Andrew as a “gringo grande” (big gringo)?
Because Ana is only 5 feet tall, while Andrew is 6.6 feet tall.
What are some highlighted moments from Andrew’s visits to Panama?
Andrew visited Panama on several occasions, and during these visits, they enjoyed activities such as playing with Ana’s children, visiting the beaches of the Panamanian Pacific, and experiencing the city’s nightlife.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect their relationship and collaborative work?
The COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on their professional relationship and joint events, leading to the cancellation of plans and challenging their way of working.
In this heartfelt post, we celebrate the life of Andrew, the owner of this site, and a cherished friend. Their friendship transcends the professional realm and has become a family-like bond. Over the years, they have shared special moments, adventures, and challenges, facing the difficulties brought on by the pandemic and reinventing themselves in the process. Although physical distance currently separates them, the connection remains strong and filled with shared dreams. On Andrew’s birthday, the author wishes him happiness and continued success in conquering new horizons. Here’s to many more shared moments in this special friendship!