In the last couple of years two of my neighbors have made trips up to the States.
The first to go were Amelia and her brother Eduardo. Amelia was married to a gringo, lived in the States for many years and has three kids that live there still. Amelia and Eduardo went up to attend the graduation, at Penn State, of her oldest son. They intended to visit Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., New York City and Connecticut. When they went they flew into the worst snow storm the northeast had had in half a century. Eduardo’s telling of their adventure was hilarious, though I could only understand a little more than half of it, since it was in Spanish, of course, but his pantomiming of sitting in his hotel room with a blanket around him didn’t need much translation.
The one thing that amazed him even more than his first encounter with the white stuff falling from the sky, was how early it got dark up there. Down here eight degrees above the equator the difference of when the sun rises and sets over the course of a year varies like about 45 minutes or so. Sun rises around 6 a.m. and sets about 12 hours later. Panamanians can’t believe that the sun sets before 5 p.m. up there.
My next door neighbor, Oscar, his wife and son, recently visited the States. They went to Orlando and Tampa just in time to be engulfed by the dreaded ‘Polar Vortex.’ When I talked to him a few days ago and asked him what his first impressions of the U.S. were, he didn’t talk about Disney, Universal or Busch Gardens. What impressed Oscar was the quality of the Interstate roads. One of his friends was there while we were talking and Oscar stressed at how well-maintained the roads were, how CLEAN AND TIDY the roadsides were, and how (you’re not going to believe this, gringos) polite the drivers were. If you haven’t driven in Panama then you have no idea what his perspective is on all that. Here’s an example, from Panama City, that’s typical…