Tag Archives: Retirement

What Did You Say?

When learning a new language, like I’ve been trying to do with Spanish since retiring here to Boquerón, I’ve long advocated that one should talk to themselves in the new language. I know it might seem silly, especially in light of the fact that one will be making mistakes that cannot be quickly corrected, but I feel it’s good practice, never the less.

When listening to the radio, watching television, or simply listening to passing conversations of native speakers as you go through the day, it’s important to try and simply absorb what’s being said. Don’t try and translate what you hear into your native tongue. Try to just “understand” what you hear as naturally as you would hearing your own language.

There are certain things that just naturally trip off my tongue, now. Things like “gracias,” “buenos dias,” “¿como esta?” “bien, gracias, y usted?” and “igualmente” when someone tells me to, “passe un buen dia.” There’s no thought processes involved. No translating from one language to another. These things JUST ARE!

I believe I’ve written, before, that I sometimes dream in Spanish now. But as when I dream in French, which happens rarely but every once in a while, still, it’s alway appropriate. That is, I speak Spanish to the people in my dreams who simply wouldn’t understand me if I spoke to them in English.

There are certain words and expressions I use from time to time in both Spanish and French. Things like “Bueno” when I’ve accomplished something like hanging clothes on the line or finish washing a load of dirty dishes.  I often use my favorite word in ANY language with an appropriately, “et voilá!”  But today something happened that was completely out of the ordinary. One of those defining moments in a person’s life.

It’s HOT this time of year in Panama. It’s what they call “Summer.” The “Dry Season,” when there are no afternoon showers to moderate the sweltering temperatures. As I sat on the bus in the terminal in David (DahVEED) I fanned myself with a hand fan I carry in my back pack for moments like this. Then, when I got off the air conditioned bus and into the dry, 90+ degree day back in Boquerón, I set my two heavy bags of groceries on the bench of the caseta (bus stop) and something happened that shook me to my core. The voice inside my head said, “La brisa siente buena.” “The breeze feels nice.” I didn’t think “The breeze feels nice” in English and translate it into Spanish. My mind simply said, “La brisa siente buena.”

As the Borg are fond of saying, “You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.”

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New Year’s Eve Repast

I was watching this video (the kids are fantastic, by the way) when I thought I heard someone calling my name outside. I went to the door and there was my next door neighbor with a plate of New Year’s food for me. A Panamanian tradition. He didn’t knock on my door because the man only had one arm and he was holding this plate which left him no way of knocking on the door.

What the plate offers is rice with guandu (rice and pigeon peas), baked ham and, of course, home made tamale rich with one of the free-range chickens that roam around my yard daily, but I doubt I’ll recognize which one is missing from the flock.

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It’s not uncommon for my neighbors to share their food with me. Things are different down here in Panama and when I get invited to my neighbor’s birthday parties like last week, or receive a plate of food from a neighbor as I did just a little while ago, all I can say is that I LOVE IT HERE!!!

 

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There’s No Escaping Assholes…

It saddens me when I read about what’s going on in my country. The incredible polarization of the people is awful. It’s awful that a certain portion of the people have stigmatized the word “Liberal” and somehow turned it into a four-letter word.

You go online to certain forums and conservatives are crowing about their stunning “victory” in November’s election. They are completely incapable of reason. When only 33% of the total number of registered voters bother to go to the polls and your side barely ekes out HALF of THOSE votes, or roughly 16.75% of all registered voters, please explain to me how that becomes an overwhelming endorsement of conservative policies?

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Yes, my Facebook page is filled with anti-conservative and anti-theist posts, so in some respects I’m as intolerant as those I criticize. But I DON’T promote racist points of view, misogynistic points of view, nor do I support homophobia. There are a lot of people who can’t stand what I post there and I’ve had a brother, a cousin and a nephew “unfriend me” on Facebook, but I look at it like this…

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But no matter how far one separates themself from the heartland of the conservative twatwaffles they are always around. You just have to look at local web forums like Boquete.ning which is sort of a gringo bible down here to see a whole cadre of Climate Change Deniers, people who believe Obama is the anti-Christ incarnate.

And today, as I was eating lunch in David a white pickup passed with these two flag decals on the tailgate…

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It’s really rather depressing to know that ignorance and intolerance and downright bigotry is able to secure a passport.

 

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Boquerón Celebrates Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. Houses all over the neighborhood are sporting flashing Christmas lights, even the worst-kept house on the street, the one where they toss their trash into the front yard, has a couple of strings of colored lights. Go into the supermarkets to do your shopping and you’re assaulted with the same Christmas carols you hear in the States. And I mean the SAME because most of the ones I heard the other day in Romero were in English!

Yesterday, the 19th, when I got on the bus at the terminal to come home after paying a couple of bills in downtown David and checking out the inventory at the city’s major bicycle store, there was a notice taped to the window of the bus about Boquerón’s Christmas celebrations. There was to be a choral presentation at the bandstand in our lovely little park up the hill at 5 p.m. Then there was going to be a parade going from El Cruce (the crossroads where the Boquerón Road meets the Interamerican Highway on up to the park starting at 7 p.m. followed by fireworks at 9. Naturally the times listed were merely suggestions, approximations since this is Panama, after all, with the typical Latin attention to punctuality.

Taking that into consideration and factoring in that my street is about two kilometers up the hill from El Cruce I headed up to the corner at about 7:45. That this was a major event in the year for my neighbors was evident when I got to the bus stop and nearly every one of my neighbors was there, many having brought a chair from home to sit on. The little kids ran around playing tag while the teenaged girls all stood or sat around totally absorbed in texting away on their cell phones, probably to teenaged girls on the other side of the street waiting for the parade to come by, too.

The head of the parade made it to our street at about 8:30 with a float, of sorts, with what I have to assume was the Queen of the event who waved at the crowd of about 50 or so. It just struck me, but besides myself, there was only one other adult male in the group on either side of the street. Like New Orleans parades the riders on the float tossed goodies to the plebeians. No beads, but handfuls of tiny, penny candies which were pounced on with unbridled fury. It took over an hour for the parade of floats, lit up cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles to pass our location. It wasn’t that the parade was incredibly lengthy, but this is a two-lane road up and past the town square with one single, two-lane road branching off from it so there were long delays while the first participants were disbanding up above.

Looking at the parade with gringo eyes it was pretty shoddy. The floats were extremely basic with a few lights and minimum creativity. But that’s looking at it with “gringo eyes.” An expat has to look at it with a local’s eye. This was put on by people who, for the most part, have very little disposable income compared to people living even in small towns in the States. Those in the parade don’t have a lot of money to spend making elaborate, Rose Bowl Parade-style floats. The handful of candies tossed to the crowd is probably in proportion to THEIR income as the beads and doubloons  tossed by Krewe members on a Mardi Gras float. For the residents of tiny Boquerón this WAS a major event for both the parade participants and the people lining the route. THEY were happy. THEY enjoyed it. And, when it’s all said and done I enjoyed it because it was nice to see my neighbors having fun on a warm summer evening (yes, it’s SUMMER HERE down by the equator).

The fireworks went off at about 9:30 and they would have done ANY small town in the States proud. People here LOVE their Fuegos Artificiales.

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SOLD!

Heading over to Bugaba this morning to transfer title on the motorcycle. Got close to my asking price so I’m satisfied. Of course the money is already gone. I have some massive dental work that needs to be done. Fortunately it’s a LOT less expensive here than in the States, but it’s still a serious chunk of change.

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I just never used it like I thought I was going to. There were roads I’d pass on the bus going to and from David and Bugaba and wonder what was down them. I did ride down several of them and the answer was…not much.

 

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Getting Ready For Christmas

‘Tis the season to be jolly and I’m getting into the groove here in Boquerón. I spent all weekend getting my Christmas tree up, but it was certainly worth the effort.

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An Honor

Back the last week in September our little community of Boquerón celebrated the feast day of its patron saint San Miguel. A little old man, Jorge Luis Ríos, who lives just up the main road from me said he was putting together a small magazine and he wanted me to write an article for it. He and I talk a couple of times a week and he knows that I was a newspaper reporter way, way, way back, and I lent him the Spanish version of my book which he said he enjoyed. He must have because every time we are on the bus together going in to David (DahVEED) he tells everyone around that I’ve written a book.. Sr. Ríos is a radio journalist reporting on farm news for Radio Chiriquí. So, I gave him about a thousand words in a little article titled “Mi Boquerón” (My Boquerón). He produced a 14-page magazine (revista in Spanish).

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My story was extremely heavily edited, but parts of it were quoted…

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On the facing page is a national hero here in Panama and the Pride of Boquerón, without a doubt…

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It’s an honor to be in such good company and definitely an honor to appear as the only extranjero (foreigner) in this community’s celebration of their year. I think it’s called assimilation.

 

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