As my regular readers know, I live in the small pueblo of Boquerón, Panama, in Chiriqui Province west of the country’s third largest city, David. I rent a house in a middle-class neighborhood where my neighbors are mono-lingual. They all speak nothing but Spanish. When I first moved in and I’d see them on my walks to the bus stop we’d exchange the normal greeting of “Buenos Dias,” or “Hola.” But recently I’ve noticed that almost all of them have stopped saying that and they say, “Hello,” instead. I can’t quite put my finger on when I first became aware of this change, but I find it rather amusing. I still answer them with the traditional “Buenos, como esta?” though, and if I stop to chat it is always in Spanish, of course.
One response to “All My Neighbors Say “Hello””
Buenos noches! and a hello, too. I was out running the country over Christmas, so I’ve got a darned lot of catching up to do! It was an impulse thing. I just couldn’t quite get my heart/mind around staying home this first Christmas without Mom, so off I went. More about that later.
I understand the mind-set of getting away since your mom’s passing. When my mother died my dad got on his boat (a 26’Stamas) with their two dogs and took off for six months. No one in the family knew where he went. We found out later that he’d gone from Venice, over on the west coast of Florida, across the state and on up the ICW and into the St. Johns river and just hung out. My mom had been an invalid for many years, crippled with the most horrible case of arthritis. Dad had done everything. All the housework, the cooking, etc. He was a chef so the cooking wasn’t a big deal though the two of them used to cook together at home when my brothers and I were kids. It was like a dance in the kitchen with the two of them. They had been a team. Not just in raising five sons, but in business as well. He just needed the time away to mourn and decompress, I think.
Interesting change you note here. Do you suppose it’s that they’re feeling more comfortable around you, and want to practice English? Or maybe just a way of telling you they like you enough to make a little effort? Whatever, it seems like a nice gesture.
I think the change in their greeting is really a way of telling me I’m a part of their barrio now. (barrio isn’t a derogatory term. It’s simply Spanish for neighborhood) When I first came to Boquerón everyone knew I’d only rented the house for six months and would be returning to Potrerillos Arriba. Of course they were all polite back then. We talked in my fractured Spanish and they always said “Buenos” when they saw me. That’s just how people are here. Everyone says “Buenos” even if they don’t know you at all. People get on the bus and say “Buenos dias” of Buenos tardes,” as the case may be, and almost everyone on the bus responds. I really love that. See what would happen in Chicago or New York if you did that. But now the subtle shift in the barrio with people saying “Hello” instead of “Buenos” seems to me to be a sign that I’m now really a part of the place since they know I’ve rented the house for at least the next two years. They know I’ve made a commitment to live here and am not just passing through.