Monthly Archives: May 2014

Comunication

I don’t know how many times I’ve said, here, that I mangle the Spanish language. I dish out grammatical errors like Halloween candy. But I manage to communicate with the locals all the time. Everyone, though, says my pronunciation is excellent. However, there are times when a tiny segment of Panamanians are just plain dumb. It usually happens with store clerks who have what I can only assume to be a limited education. But not always.

Earlier this week I had to buy my blood pressure medications. I went to the Romero supermarket which has a well-stocked pharmacy. A good looking girl, probably in her late 20s or early 30s greeted me and asked what I wanted.

I said, “Zestril, diez miligramos.”

The veil of stupidity descended. It indicates there’s a light on but you’re not sure if anyone’s home.

“ZES trill,” I said.

Again, not a hint of recognition that we were living on the same planet on her face. She handed me a piece of paper and a ball point pen.

I wrote it out.

“Oh, zes TREEL,” she said with a smile.

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“Voilà,” I said. (That’s my favorite French word, and it covers so much. There’s really nothing that will take its place.)

She got the box. It contains 56 pills: nearly a two-month supply.

“¿Algo mas.?”

“Sí, Cardiotal”

Vapid expression once more and she started to push the paper and pen at me.

“No,” I said, “trabaja conmigo.” (No, work with me.)

“Car dee oh TAL. Cinquenta miligramos.”

She gave me a genuine smile as what I said registered and she got me another two-month supply.

“Ahorra, Clo ped eh GRAL”

Again, nothing there.

“Como Plavix,” I said, “pero generic.”

Another smile and she wandered back into the stacks.

“¿Cuanto?”

“Dos cajas, por favor.” (Two boxes, please.)

“Finalmente, ee b’you pro feen oh, quartro ciento miligramos.” (Ibuprofen, 400 milligrams.)

It took her a moment of two to sort it all out but she got it.

She totaled it all up and it came to $132.96. (That’s a two month supply, though the Ibuprofen will last much longer.)

I slid my “Puntos del Oro” card (It’s sort of like Green Stamps but you don’t have to lick anything.) and my carnet (my government-issued residency card) across the counter and received a $26.59 old farts discount. Final bill, $106.37. Not bad when you consider that the last time I bought just Plavix in the in the States, about six years ago, a single month supply cost me nearly $200!

It was a bit of a chore at the pharmacy counter, but we got it worked out.

 

 

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Boquerón Is Booming

I came to Boquerón back in November 2010. It was a sleepy little village of about 1,500 people. https://onemoregoodadventure.com/2010/10/18/a-quick-peek-at-boqueron/

Things have changed quite a bit since then and the place is booming with a lot of new construction. Within the last year the Banco Nacional has opened a branch up near the Town Hall, across from the park.

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A whole new housing development has been created called Brisas de Boquerón (Boquerón Breezes). And going up the hill towards home I see new construction sites every week.

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And right here in my little neighborhood there’s building going on next door. One house has been built already, and last week another one was started.

Construction

There are no new bars or restaurants, though. But yesterday walking down from the Post Office I noticed one house’s patio was filled with clothing and a hand made sign that said, Ropa Americana (American Clothes). Now, I often see comments on stories that say ALL of the western hemisphere is “America,” not just the United States. Technically that’s true, but you know that Ropa Americana refers to the USA, and NOT Honduras or Paraguay. And while I didn’t stop and check, I’d be willing to be that those “American Clothes” have labels saying they were made in China, Bangladesh or Viet Nam.

There’s no stopping progress. There was a sign across from the bank spelling out some of the public works projects that will be taking place here in the near future, one of which is repaving the road from El Cruce to the Town Hall. Boquerón is booming.

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Food For The Taking

Half of the entire population of the Republic of Panama live in the capitol. The rest of the country is pretty much rural. Even here in Chiriquí with the country’s third largest city (David) things are different than they are in most of the U.S. There’s free food for the taking almost everywhere.

As I’ve said before, while the official National Bird is the harpy eagle, the defacto national bird is the common chicken. They roam free all over the place. I even see them within the city limits of David. Unlike Mexico, Italy, France and other countries there really isn’t anything like a national cuisine here. The closest you could come to a national dish it would be sancocho. Basically that’s chicken soup with ñame and yucca, two root veggies, and seasoned with cilantro.

Sitting on my front porch I can see several different food sources and while some of them are on people’s property, others are kind of free for the taking. Like avocados. It seems that many people here have long, long poles, usually made of bamboo, that they use to knock down the fruits they couldn’t normally reach.

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He’s after avocados.

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Next door the neighbors have a lot of plantains…

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And papaya…

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There are also two HUGE mango trees and they’re LOADED and should be ripe and ready to go in a couple of weeks. There is an extremely bountiful lime tree in my back yard and orange and grapefruit trees are all over the place.

One thing’s for sure. The people around here will never starve.

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Panama Election Is Over

Today, Sunday, May 4th, was election day in Panama. I mean for everybody. President on down.

At 7:30 p.m., with 60% of the votes in, the head of the Electoral Commission said that there was an irreversible trend for the Panameñista  candidate, Juan Carlos Varela, with just a hair under 40% of the votes over Cambio Democrático candidate José Domingo Arias who stood at not quite 33%. Juan Carlos Navarro, the Partido Revolucionario Democrático candidate garnered 27% and three other candidates barely showed up in the mix and certainly not enough to make a difference. Boy, they sure like using three names, just like good old backwoods boys in the States, don’t they?

From http://richarddetrich.com/ :

“Juan Carlos Varela, representing the Panamenista Party, is also a businessman with a degree from Georgia Institute of Technology and his family owns Varela Hermanos, Panamas major and gigantic rum company. The Panamenistas made an alliance with Martinelli’s CD party in order to defeat the PRD candidate and get Martinelli elected. The price of the alliance was for Varela to be Martinelli’s Vice President until the two had a falling out. Although running against the current government candidate, Domingo, Varela is still Vice President.”

As a foreigner I am strictly forbidden to participate in any way in the Panamanian electoral process. I will make no judgement or statement about the outcome of this election because, quite frankly it’s none of my business and I also really don’t know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision. I will, though, make this one observation and then shut up. I think the fact that Arias’s vice presidential running mate is the current president, Ricardo Martinelli’s wife might have hurt Arias overall since it gives the appearance that Martinelli might still keep his finger in the pot.

It will be five years before the Republic goes through this craziness again, unlike in the States where it seems there is non-stop campaigning and speculation, often years ahead of the fact.

 

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La Ley Seca

Tomorrow, Sunday, May 4th, is Panama’s election day. They only do it every five years. And it’s for every office from President down to Mayor. All over the country. Voting isn’t supposed to be optional. In theory it’s mandatory that everyone of legal age goes to the polls. Of course there will always be scofflaws who won’t go.

In Panama there are three major parties. The newest is the Cambio Democrático, with 36 members in the National Assembly. The current president, Ricardo Martinelli, owner of the huge supermarket chain, Super 99, is the leader of that party. He can not run for a second term for 10 years.

The second largest party, though its membership has fallen off in the past five years is the Partido Revolucionario Democrático with 17 members in the Assembly. This is followed by the Partido Panameñista with 13 members.

The Movimiento Liberal Republicano Nacionalista has 4 in the Assembly but they support the CD candidate for President. And then there’s the Partido Popular which isn’t all that popular since it only has a single member in the Assembly.

Like in the States it’s sort of a circus, but a little livelier. People fly the flags of their favorite party at their houses, they adorn their cars, and even their motorcycles, with the same flags as well as plaster them with huge ads like you’d see on buses back in the States.

Pickup trucks with loudspeakers mounted on their roofs roam the streets blaring out the virtues of their candidates. It seems that there’s a campaign poster on nearly every telephone pole, often with the competing parties on the same one. It doesn’t seem like they tear down each other’s posters, and each party has to put up money in order to post this stuff so that workers will be paid to take it all down after the election. On the InterAmerican Hwy., on the way into David (Dah VEED) there is a long structure for 11 billboard-sized posters in one place. Right now, 9 of them are political posters. One spot is empty and the other is an advertisement for a hardware company.

Groups from each party wander through the neighborhoods, stopping at each house, to talk up their candidates. I became pretty adept at saying, “Soy extranjero. No puedo participar en su proceso electoral, pero, buena suerte.” (I’m a foreigner. I can’t participate in your electoral process, but, good luck.)

There are outdoor rallies where stuff is given away, the most frequent and most visible are baseball caps and tee shirts. I saw one of my neighbors who I know is a big Cambio supporter by the huge party flag flying at his house wearing a new baseball cap touting Juan Carlos Navarro, the PRD candidate for president, and a Juan Carlos Varela, the Panameñista choice, tee shirt. When I commented on the mixed message he smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said the Spanish equivalent of, “Hey, free stuff.”

In a comment on a local forum one member said that his Ngobe worker was given 6 chicks as an incentive to vote for someone running for office in Chiriqui.  And a promise of 6 more this week. That’s better than the empty promise of a “chicken in every pot.

Needless to say, but I will anyway, the airways are flooded with campaign ads.

I recently read some stories in a newspaper at a restaurant where I was having lunch, that the Panameñista candidate, Varela, has accepted over $1.5 million dollars over several years from an international Internet gambling ring laundering money in the States, and he also was given a Bertram yacht valued at another two million.  The story, originally run by Miami-based Diario Las Americas was accompanied with photo copies of checks made out to Varela and documents from Bertram.

When I mentioned the story to a Panamanian friend the other day she said, “Oh, Varela was on television last night and explained it all.” I missed that.

They take their politics seriously here in Panama, and one thing they do is invoke La Ley Seca. The Dry Law. Voting day is tomorrow, Sunday, and starting at noon today, there will be no alcohol sales anywhere in the country until noon on Monday. There are signs wherever alcohol is sold advertising that fact. The only exception is sales to foreigners at the hotels where they are staying if they have proof that they aren’t  Panamanian citizens.

 

 

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Grip Broken

It seems as if the grip that the ‘dry season’ has had on the country over the past several months has been broken. At least here in Chiriquí Province. We have had rain every afternoon this week, and it started today about an hour ago, 3:00 EST, and is still coming down in buckets. It will probably continue for another hour.

One thing we like about this kind of weather is that it moderates the heat. Shortly after it started raining the temperature dropped seven or eight degrees almost immediately. Now it’s to the point where I’ve had to put on a tee shirt to be comfortable. Most of the time I run around the house in a pair of shorts and flip flops. There have been times where its chilled off so much that I’ve had to put on a pair of jeans and socks to ward off the chill.

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Chiriquí Baseball Update

Chiriquí, my adopted home team, lost the seventh and deciding game of the Panamanian version of the World Series of Beísbol to Bocas del Toro 6-2. It’s the second time in three years Bocas has been the country’s championship team.

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