My Spanish and The Police, again and again and again!
I think it is getting better, it has to be! Today I was out driving around on my lunch break and made an illegal U-turn, I did not know there was a police officer about 2 cars behind me who proceeded to get out and motion me over to the side of the road. He seemed pretty upset and was asking me for my license and I was very nervous trying to communicate and give him my made up excuse in Spanish. I gave him my driver’s license from Maryland, so he asked for my passport. “Well I don’t have my passport with me I have a copy of it, and a copy of the entrance stamp as well” I told him as I handed my papers to him. He then asked who’s car I was driving? “It’s mine” I said. He went on to ask me where I was going and reminded me that he could write me 2 different citations. I explained to him where I worked and that I was out running around during my lunch break. At this point he still seems pretty upset but gets a phone call and excuses himself for a few minutes. I think there are certain words and phrases you must learn first when coming into another country as a visitor, words and phrases that the locals use and say, or words of respect, such as gentlemen. Also, your tone and demeanor go a long way! If you speak slowly and dramatic, like it was this very emotional experience, they seem to relate and sympathize. When he returned from the call I attempted to explain myself and plead my case. “Do you speak English?” I asked. “No? Ok, listen up. It would be easier if you did because then I could express myself accurately but I only speak a little Spanish”. I think this immediately changed his perspective and opinion of me, as if I knew more than him and at least I was trying to communicate rather than playing dumb. My excuse? There happened to be an old guard shack just ahead from where I made this illegal turn, I told him “I thought there was a guard in there and that this area was restricted”, since I do work in the former canal zone, it halfway made sense. “I don’t know this area very well”, I said to him. At this point he is smiling and laughing and asking me questions that have nothing to do with the current situation and basically told me to be very careful , “Cuidate Mucho!”, and not do it again. He handed me my papers and driver’s license and we were on our way! Did I just talk my way out of a ticket? Score! My Spanish is getting better!
Panama Police – 0 (but $30 richer)
Jeff – 4 (but $30 poorer)
Ok, next night…I am meeting up with a couple from Russia\Chicago that I met on Isla Taboga in the Spanish Colonial area of town called Casco Viejo to listen to some amazing jazz music. Around 1:30am we are leaving to go home and there is a checkpoint, and the officer asks for my license. Well guess what? I don’t have it! Luckily this time Ginela was with me, so I had some local backup on my side but I felt I handled it quite well. After a few minutes of conversing I shook his hand and deposited $5, told him we would proceed into the night with caution and we were on our way home again. I am not about giving bribes, in fact I hate it…but it was late and I was not alone, plus it was only $5, a small price to pay to get everyone home and ready for bed. I think it’s a win for the gringo team.
Police – 0 (but $35 richer)
Jeff – 5 (but $35 poorer)
Again, during Carnaval…I was talking on the cell phone and got pulled over, after the typical few minutes of conversation I slip the officer $5. He asks how much I gave him, at this point I should have told him to pull it out and count it, in fact I think I will try that next time, oh and there will be a next time, no doubt. I told him it was $5 and he proceeded to tell me that it wasn’t enough, I said, “Ok, forget it, give me the damn ticket, I don’t have time for this!” He immediately gave me my license and sent me on my way. Maybe that is another tactic I can use, bribe them with very little and if they don’t like it, ask for the ticket. I am sure the last thing they want is me going to the court and explaining how the officer asked for a bribe and that what I gave him was not enough, so I accepted the citation.
Police – 0
Jeff – 6 ($40 in the hole)
Normal day, Normal Haircut.
It was Friday and my day off. My friend Jerin and I are out exploring different rural areas outside of the city as we so often do, we had been hiking and walking all morning. Upon heading back into the city Jerin mentions that he wants to get a haircut. It is quite obvious that neither of us have had one in at least 2 months. “Wow 2 months?” you say? Yes I am that lazy! He mentions a barber shop not too far from my place, as with a lot of things in Panama, it is easier with a friend. Now we have been sweating and hiking all day, in fact my hair is sticking straight up because we have been driving with the windows down, so am I am looking a little crazier than normal. We arrive at this barber shop, which is the exactly the way you would imagine it I guess, windows all the way around so they can watch and comment on the people that pass by, mainly women. All the men seem to know each other and the same people, and I imagine there is quite a bit of gossip going around. Now the only difference between this barber shop and the one you imagine, is this is a Rastafarian barber shop and I would imagine we were the only white guys that had been in there in the past year. I wish I could have taken pictures of the murals inside this barber shop but I hesitate to be the crazy gringo with a camera sometimes. There was a huge painting on one wall that was a Jamaican man with dread locks facing one direction smoking a joint and the other side of his head was a lion, facing the other direction. The lion wasn’t smoking anything, below it said “Jah Live!” (God lives). I take my seat when it is my turn, the barber asks me what sort of cut I want, I tell him that I want long hair, but I need a haircut and to just cut a little. The whole time I am facing away from the mirrors so I too can see people walking by in the streets. Now remember what my hair must have looked like when I came in, after 15 minutes of cutting and styling I get up out of the chair and pay the guy as I look into the mirror and notice that he has given me a mohawk, similar to what my hair must have looked like when I came into the shop. On the bright side of things my hair is shorter, my neck is cleaned up and I have a new style!
A Few Things Worth Mentioning.
Valentine’s day we went to a barbeque, I wore all red, I’m sure some of you have seen the pictures. – My birthday (I am 32 now) we went to the beach for a few days, including Tucson! I also learned the way to my newest favorite beach Sea Cliff. We went on my birthday and were the only ones there for the first few hours, then throughout the day no more than 20 other people showed up. You need a 4×4 to get to it so I think that has a lot to do with it being empty. – Also it appears that in addition to me not being able to speak Spanish, I am unlearning English. I say things like “we was” and “him did”. I think a lot of it has to do with me trying to speak in English the way a lot of people who are just learning might speak it or maybe it’s just that I am an idiot, the jury is still out on