Tag Archives: Panama

Faces, Stamps, Ships And Canals

Today I came upon an interesting piece of information on one of the Yahoo bulletin boards. Credit goes to “Leo” for knowing about this and sharing the information.

I am sure that you know that Helen of Troy is recognized as a lady of such beauty, that her face launched a thousand ships and she is credited as being the reason for the Trojan Wars. But did you know that a Nicaraguan stamp, which depicted the smoking volcano Mount Momotomb, was used to convince the US congress to vote in favor of building the Panama Canal over a plan to build a canal through Nicaragua. Continue reading Faces, Stamps, Ships And Canals

I Smell Something Burning

Panama Bus Fire - 18 diedThis week there was a tragic accident in Panama City with a bus catching fire resulting in 18 deaths and multiple injuries. I am not sure that the word accident is the proper word to use because it implies that it was unavoidable.

I do not believe this is the case. I have repeatedly warned people about using the bus transportation system in Panama. I include every bus system I have seen while I have been here. Most if not all buses begin their life in Panama after being retired from a long-term duty in the US as school buses. Many are replaced in the US because they are no longer considered safe and may not pass US inspections. If you look at the buses that travel between David and Boquete, you will see these yellow school buses with the school name from the US still on the bus. Continue reading I Smell Something Burning

Some Observations

Having a maid in Panama is not as much a luxury as it would be in the US. In the US your house is pretty much a closed system these days. It was only on the rarest occasions that I remember having my windows open in any of the houses I lived in after I first had air-conditioning. Because of this, minimal dust and dirt entered the house. It normally never needed a vacuuming more than once a week. Living in Panama, you will find that is very different. It is rare, if not impossible, to find any house or apartment with the windows closed. It is just too expensive to pay the electric bill so the locals leave the windows open. Normally the only rooms that have AC will be the bedrooms. If the windows are open then the dust will come in and believe me there is enough dust that some cleaning each day is a good idea. Continue reading Some Observations

Panama and US Comparisons

When I read the Yahoo groups, one question that comes up again and again is how the cost of living compares with some area of the part of the world the person is living in. I really think that cost of living is a single item to consider, but let me ramble a bit and maybe I can answer a little of the COL questions while considering comparisons of several things with the US. Continue reading Panama and US Comparisons

Faster Is Colder, Slower IS Hotter

If you live in Panama and unless you have the opportunity to build your own house you will probably get to learn about electric showerheads. I know that they are commonly known as widow makers. I don’t know why they couldn’t be widower makers. Maybe women designed them and the women would never get under one.

The shower head is like one of those coils that you may have see to heat a cup of water for coffee. As the water passes through the head, the water is heated. To get the water the right temperature you have to adjust the rate of flow of the water. If the flow is to great then the water doesn’t have time to heat and it is a chilling experience. Also the heating element doesn’t operate if there isn’t sufficient water flow.

In the middle is your happy medium and you get nice warm water. However, you don’t always have complete control of the water pressure. Just as the electricity voltage fluctuates to a certain extent, the water pressure may also fluctuate. Today was one of those days. I had the flow rate just right and was enjoying my shower. Then the pressure decreased, and the heater turned off. Burrrrr.

In general though remember that faster is colder and slower is hotter.

Driving In Panama

I have read on the Yahoo groups about several driving experiences here in Panama and then have reflected on my own experience. You have multiple challenges driving here.

If you are not driving in the city and plan on seeing the out of the way areas, then you really need a 4×4. Even some of the main streets can have holes in them that will do a real job on a standard car. You will find that you never consistently drive on the right hand side of the road in many areas. You have to avoid the potholes and that takes you from one side of the road to the other.

Now in the cities, it is a different situation. I have driven only minimally in Panama City and that was usually when leaving. I have never done it without a navigator.

Driving outside of Panama is not that big a problem, but never the less you have to pay attention. After my last day of driving in David, I realized that there is a very good way to practice for your driving experience in Panama before you get here. If you happen to be in an area that has carnival rides, seek out the bumper car ride and make sure you take at least three people with you. Buy tickets for everyone in your party and give them instructions that their purpose is to make sure they try to run into you. Now you get in your bumper car and you try to keep from getting hit. Perfect training.

Sing To Me Tio

One of the Blogs I read on a regular basis is the Cooking Diva. Now I usually go there to find some new dish by one of the best chefs in Panama, Chef Melissa. Today, I found an article she wrote about time she recently spent with Juan Deago.

One of Chef Melissa’s references took me to another blog (nebursworld), where I found a poem about Juan Deago called Tio Juancho. I know a lot of people don’t take the time to checkout referred to URLs, so I am going to include the poem here.

Take a seat, relax, and picture the words from this poem being spoken by one that recognized the wisdom that had been passed on to him by his uncle. It put a knot in my throat when I read it and thought of those I wish I had given such deserved recognition. While you are at it after reading to poem head on over to Chef Melissa’s and read her entire article on Juan Deago. You will be glad you did.

Enjoy the poem.

Tío Juancho

sing to me, tío
teach me the songs of the birds
i’ve never seen fly
teach me
the songs i do not
remember

tell me tío,
like you told me
when i asked you so long ago:
why does grass go to sleep
when i touch it?
why do weeds give me soothing milk
i can spread on my skin
to ease the sting of the mosquito
that doesn’t seem to bother you?
why does the cut banana tree
grow back right in front of me?
why do some bananas
stay small and brown and sweet
while some grow big and green
and not so sweet
but savory, cuando Mamasita, 0
Yaya, o Mercedes
(pero nunca un hombre, never a man)
fries them and sprinkles them with salt?

tell me, tío,
how can you make cocada all day long

(all these years)

crack open the shells
with one blow of the machete and
give me the slippery sweet slime inside
that slides down my tongue

(all these years)

grate the coconut
mix in the honey above the fire
that boils the cocada and you

(all these years)

roll the still hot cocada into balls
and let them cool while you clean
the pot, the stirring stick and the machete
so they will he ready for next time
then call me over to try your fresh candy:

¡Ruben, ven acá!

sweat, still dripping from your aged face
as you hand me the biggest piece
and a bag to take home to america
before you remove
your sweat-soaked shirt and sun-soiled hat
replace them with the clean ones
you treasure so much,
then load up your cart and start down the street:
Cocada! Cocada!
dignified

(all these years)

sing to me your decima, tío,
take me to our land
take me to my land
show me how to work
the ground abuelo worked
how to feel the dirt
under my fingernails
show me the hut he built
where abuelita bore nine children
show me the land she loved
the land she left
the man she left
to educate her daughters
to give them a chance
because in the fields
they had none

sing to me, tío
sing me the songs that tell me why
the dormideros,
the milk plants,
and mis sueños Panameños
do not grow in this infertile land
take me by the hand
as you did so many years ago
at the deathbed of mi abuelo
as you did a few summers ago
at his tomb
the place where
abuela would rejoin him soon
close, but apart
in life, in death

take mi tío,
show me every plant
every mountain
every bird
every life-giving stream
but also show me
the dirty dollar
the endless squalor
bitter fruits of a broken pan-american dream

sing to me, tío
teach me the songs of the birds i’ve never seen fly
teach me
the songs i do not
remember
or maybe,
the songs i never knew

-Ruben Antonio Villalobos
Originally publish in Poetry for the People: Poetry in a Season of Love, Poetry for the People Press, Berkeley 1994