Un año en Panamá ~ Part Two

We met another challenge yesterday; renewal of our car insurance and the registration of the truck.  Things work a little different in Panama.  When you purchase a vehicle you also inherit the insurance and the registration.  When we purchased the vehicle in May of last year the registration was due at the end of May but it was registered in Panama City.  We purchased new insurance in Chitré and paid someone to register the vehicle in Panama for us (technically a no, no) because we didn’t have the time to run back to the city to do everything while we were awaiting our furniture to arrive.

Yesterday we ran into Chitré early in the morning, renewed the insurance (and it was less than last year whoot, whoot), took four quick side trips to Machetazo, Melo, Riegos de Chirquí and Do It Centre and were back in Las Tablas shortly after 11:00.  A quick visit to the Revisado to arrange for registration and the transfer of our registration, click, click a few pictures of the vehicle, much discussion with the fellows in the shop about my español skills and we were on our way again.  We should be getting our Panama City plates by the end of the month and then we’ll get the new plates a couple of months later in Pedasi once the transfer goes through.  Yes, no stickers in Panama, plates that are reissued every year with the same number on them.  A quick stop at Super Carne for a few items and we were back home in time for lunch.  Whoot, whoot a good day when we can tick off everything on the list and still be home for some hammock time.

Before supper we had some girl time down at the Beach Shack as we’ve come to call it.  It’s always good to get out, do a little stretching, watch the waves and have a yack with the girls.

I thought today I’d also review the list I created and posted on FaceBook before the blog titled Five Things that Make Me Chuckle about Panama and see if I am able to still see the humour almost one year later.  As usual the original text is in italics my new comments follow each section.

Five Things that Make Me Chuckle about Panama

The plethora of paperwork.  Just when you think you’ve completed all the forms for something be it a driver’s license, satellite, mail etc. there’s another one.   And the forms ask you the same thing three or five times.  No kidding, one form asked us our cedula number (government issued ID) four times.  I was incredulous and amused and had to ask several times if I was interpreting the Spanish correctly;

We’ve completed more paperwork in the last year here than I probably did in a lifetime of living in Canada and still agree with my original statement.  I mentioned in earlier posts that I’ve completed two census’s now and the questions are all repetitious.  I will say that when I wrote this initially I should have added that every document must be stamped vigorously at least four times or more, including receipts at many of the stores.  I’m sure that there are people hired in Panama for their stamping abilities.   I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been here a year now or because we’re just used to it but it doesn’t bother me much anymore.  I think Panama has taught us both to have more patience.  But the stamping, this still amuses me;

 What we call traffic jams out in the campo (country).  This usually involves caballaros (cowboys) and cattle.  The herd of beasts is usually being moved from one pasture to another…down the middle of the highway…that you’re driving on.  If you’re lucky on coming vehicles will flash their lights to let you know to slow down so you don’t end up with hamburger all over your windshield.  Betsy and Frank (depending on the gender of the creature) are much appreciative of this.  If you’re unlucky you end up behind them and let’s just say Brahma butt at eye level is not a pretty sight.  Funny but not pretty.  This brings me to number three;

I’ve since found out that caballeros means “gentlemen” in español not cowboys.  Cowboys is vaqueros in español.  We still meet traffic jams of the bovine kind and we are always grateful if they are coming towards us instead of in front of us.  It has become part of campo living and we are still fascinated and amused at the spectacle.  Yesterday there were some bovine escapees in the ditch beside the highway munching away on a large patch of green grass.  We cheered them on going past them to Chitré and we cheered them coming back when they were still there.  After this long dry season if I had to eat brown grass all day I’d be going for the green too;

Somewhat related to the above.  Driving habits of Panamanians and those gringos who have adopted the Panamanian style of driving.  I bet most Canadians barely know where their four-way flashers are.  Most anal retentive or angry drivers know where their horns are I bet.  Horns and flashers are used in a different way in Panama.  Horns are used often, never seemingly in an angry manner as we would use them in Canada.  They are used to toot a greeting, sometime to say an appreciative hello to someone of the female persuasion, but even to the Grandma or Grandma walking down the street.  They are also used to show that the vehicle is going to take the right of way even if they don’t necessarily have it, and usually they don’t.  They are also used to toot a warning that if you’re stopped at a stop sign you shouldn’t proceed because he’s coming down the road across your path.  Flashers are used for just about everything also.  At night to draw attention to the fact that there’s some cruising going on.  In slow traffic, making the trip look almost like a parade.  In a heavy rainstorm to make sure that people can see you.  Again, it looks like a huge parade of cars in an enormous car wash.  You also have to be a confident driver.  If the other drivers sense any weakness in you, you’re toast.  I’m much too cautious a driver to even attempt The City.  Eric’s military training has helped him almost master it.  Mind boggling and amusing…and also terrifying sometimes;

SU did some driving in hotspots peacekeeping and in combat zones.  These experiences prepared him well for driving in Panama.  One year on I try to sit back and enjoy the ride and don’t cover my eyes as often.  We have discovered that the car horn is also used as the Panameño doorbell.  Yes, we are still amused with some of the driving habits and we are happy when the town folk give us a wave, a flash of lights as a warning or a toot of the horn when they recognize us;

The Panamanian fascination with fireworks.   They love fireworks.  Enough that they keep the Chinese firework factories in business single-handed.  (I don’t know that for a fact I just made it up.)  Fireworks are used for every fiesta, birthday, wedding, christening, anniversary…you get the idea.  Fireworks are sometime just set off because it’s Friday, kid you not.  The first time we heard fireworks when we visited last Fall we were in a little town up the highway called Guarare.  We were in our room and we heard what we thought were gunshots…all night.  We found out the next day it was Friday…fireworks.  We had almost been ready to high tail it back to The City.  Fireworks…so pretty and they make so many people happy;

Yes, fireworks for every occasion day or night.  Panameños love the boom they make.  I think that a medal should be given to every person in town that stuck it out for Carnaval in February.  Many of the locals skedaddled out of the burg for the peace and quiet of the countryside somewhere, anywhere else and the tourists took over.  Some of the fireworks that went off day and night sounded like artillery fire.  And yet, this fascination still amuses me.  What worries me though is that SU now knows where to buy fireworks;

Oh yah!  Fireworks!

Oh ya! Fireworks!

The abundance of cheap Chinese stuff.  Now, I know, you’re going to say it’s everywhere.  Let me just say the Chinese send Canada the high quality stuff.  Panama gets the stuff nobody wants.  For such a small country it’s amazing how much.  It must all fall off the boats as they come through the canal.  It makes for some interesting shopping, especially the translations on some of the items (see last week’s post about the kitten’s litter box).  Our neighbors have a flashlight that came with the moniker “radiant farness”.  It makes us happy to wonder out loud sometimes if the coming storm will result in them breaking out the “radiant farness”.  Oh, such small things amuse small minds!

The abundance of cheap Chinese stuff will never abate worldwide.  We’ve had our frustrations over some of the items made in China that we’ve bought here as documented throughout the blog.  This becomes not so amusing especially if it is something that you rely on every day.   On the other hand we have also learned that plastic is sometimes better than metal when metal rusts and plastic doesn’t.  It does amuse me sometimes to see some of the sayings on cheap plastic items that the Chinese have interpreted to English…incorrectly.  Yes, amusing for sure.

Reviewing the list I see that I continue to find the joy in the little things that make me happy and make life good in the campo.


About indacampo

You'll find me at https://indacampo.wordpress.com/ blogging about Panama...and other things.
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4 Responses to Un año en Panamá ~ Part Two

  1. This made me chuckle. I mostly know Panama City, so some of these characteristics are no so obvious there 🙂

  2. indacampo says:

    I guess some habits are what we call “country hick” ways of doing things. For example we have more wide open spaces for running cattle down the highways here! But, if you’ve ever taken a trip down the Bridge of Americas and through that twisty road towards the highway, in the rain, you’ve seen all the four way flashers on the cars going! 🙂

  3. Kris says:

    Paperwork, yup. Though, it seems they are more thorough here in everything they do, so maybe this is part of the reason for the excess paperwork?
    Traffic jams? No herds of cattle on the highway here, but we have an occasional horseback rider or escaped cow or horse.
    Driving? I actually find it easier here because you know what to expect. In Florida we had aggressive BMW’s, lost tourists, headless drivers (slow elderly folks in Cadillacs who couldn’t see over the steering wheel), people turning right from the left lane… you get the idea. Here everyone is on alert, and if there is an opportunity you know they will take it, but people just seem to adjust and get along. Once you understand and adapt to the driving style you fit right in.
    Fireworks? As my neighbor said “nunca bastante!” (never enough)
    I hate to shop so I haven’t done enough to comment on the cheap Chinese stuff. It does seem though that they tend to value price over quality and longevity of something.

    • indacampo says:

      Yes, it’s true that you have to pay more attention to what you’re doing while driving! We were just talking about some of the larger mechanical Chinese items last night. We have a theory that we end up with the “seconds” or the stuff that’s been sent back for repair here! 🙂

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