Posted by: Panamá Jeff | July 21, 2009

Holiday Madness

New Years

As with all holidays in Panama, it is a very big deal. This country seems to have healthy obsession with fireworks, in fact tonight is Chinese New Year and there will be a huge firework show. This past New  Year’s eve at midnight were fireworks in every neighborhood, in every section of the city, and this is no exaggeration. From a small suburban town just outside of downtown you literally could see fireworks in every direction, including every street and intersection close by for about 30 minutes. They also create ‘munecas’ or dolls which are basically clothes stuffed with newspaper, like a scarecrow. They also load this guys shirt and pants full of blackcats, stand him um in the middle of the streets, ours was in the middle of an intersection, and set him a blaze! This doll can represent anything really, people or personal vices, challenges or accomplishments. I wish I had a video of this chaos, it was truly entertaining.  It was like a bonfire with fireworks screaming all around like a warzone, people would run up and toss even more blackcats into this burning mess in the streets….all the while cabs trying drive and navigate through the storm.  Shit makes me laugh out loud, it’s exciting and unexpected. It is not uncommon to see a fireworks show in the city, sometimes 2 or 3 times a week, in fact I heard one last night but was too lazy to get up and look.

 Parks Are For Lovers, and sports.

Parks are scattered all throughout Panama City, some of them are quite large and national parks, others are located inside the city, one of which is across the street from me. At anytime on a cool night you can take a walk in any park and see couples snuggled up, kissing and flirting, enjoying the night. On any day of the week, truly rain or shine, you will see countless soccer games going on in parks, most of games taking place on a basketball court with goals set up on each end, which seems to be the case 99% of the time. Occasionally before the parks get crowded you will see a few basketballers. The parks here are definitely utilized.

Speaking of large parks, a friend of mine and I hiked part of ‘Camino de Cruces’, which is basically a man made trail from the Pacific to the Caribbean in which the Spanish and pirates used to transport their stolen Peruvian gold. We hiked for about 5 hours, 10km in the jungle. It was not easy, I do not think I was ready for it but enjoyed it.

Adjusting.

Is not the easiest thing in the world to do.  Never mind the fact that you are in a new country, trying to learn the city as well as the language but also have to mentally adjust to the differences. People here do not get offended  over certain things like everyone does in the states.  If you are used to acting a certain way it’s hard to change.  They speak very abrasive, or so it seems to me, but to them it is not. For example, if you went to order a hamburger at Mcdonald’s, and the employee looked at you and said “Tell Me!”, most people in the states would immediately give a confused look or even worse. “excuse me, who are you talking to like that? Better get your manager over here!”    Or driving, people here don’t get offended if you honk. In fact if you want to speed up just so that can’t get over in front of you, it’s ok! They won’t be offended, they will look at is as a missed opportunity! Furthermore, if someone is about to pull out in front of you, it’s ok to speed up and head towards them constantly laying on the horn. Or if you come around a corner too fast, and someone happens to be crossing the street, lay on the horn and I guarantee they will get out of the way and you never even have to touch the brakes! Te juro eso!  Also if you want to tint or hell even spray paint your windows black, including your windshield, all is ok. It’s a jungle over here, literally.  I always seem to get caught up in the middle of something I usually can’t understand, but I try to practice so when my confidence is up, I strike up conversations. The other day I had a woman selling some sort of spray on car cleaner or wax at the gas station that I was being friendly to and she was trying to make a sale. We chatted for a bit, I learned about the new product and she cleaned a quarter of my car trying to prove it to me. I did not buy the cleaner, I should just keep my mouth shut.

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