Whew! I made it home very late Monday night. It was a fabulous trip and I had a great time, but I’m happy to be home. I’m still tired so I’m looking forward to resting up a bit and getting the house in order a little more.
Of course the US feels like home. I lived there all my life and have many connections there. But, now, Panama also feels like home. It’s interesting to feel ties to both places. I’ve been thinking about how it feels in each country and what is different. I’ll try to write down the main points that come to mind.
- The language, of course.
- Greeting people. I had a hard time in the US ignoring and being ignored by people I passed on the street or in the park. I am so used to greeting everyone I see. It may sound like a small thing but it makes a difference in how I feel. When I am always met with smiles and friendly greetings it makes me feel welcome, included, and a part of the community. I was surprised at how much I missed this.
- The sounds. The US for the most part was very very quiet. I woke up in Panama to dozens of different birds, and the whistling cicadas making a racket (apparently whistling is not just for sunset now). The neighbor’s dogs were barking. I could hear the rooster down the street. Before my eyes were even open I knew exactly where I was!
- The US is more orderly. The streets are cleaner. There are traffic laws. There is zoning. There are regulations about almost everything. In Panama there are laws of course, but it feels generally more relaxed. People are left to make their own decisions a lot more.
- The US is predictable and familiar. I know what is in Walgreens, or a supermarket, and where to find tomato plants. In Panama, sometimes things are in places you wouldn’t expect and things are done differently. It’s only a learning curve though, and one day I’ll be as familiar with Panama.
- Different driving styles. Some people say driving in Panama is difficult. It really isn’t once you are accustomed to the style. If there is an opportunity you take it. If you need to do something you do it and others accommodate you, and you do the same for them. In the US you don’t always know what to expect of others, and there is little tolerance for others on the road. They honk if you go too slow, or do anything else they don’t like . In Panama a honk is a courtesy thing – hey I’m just letting you know I’m passing you, or I’m over here, or you’re clear to merge, etc. I think this reflects the generally more laid back general attitude of Panama and their inclination not to fuss about what someone else is doing.
- The cost of things! I took a taxi in Vegas from the airport to a hotel I could literally see from the airport. $13.30 before tip. In David I took a taxi ride from the bus terminal to the airport which is all the way across town and then some – $4.
- Security. The US has so many rules about everything, but not so many people watching over things. Here in Panama there are security people everywhere. When I went to pick up our car from the airport parking lot I was approached by two security guards who asked what I was doing (it was late at night and there was nothing going on at the airport, so I’m sure it looked a bit odd). At first I thought this must be a very dangerous place to have so much security everywhere. Now though, I feel taken care of. I know the security guard in the supermarket parking lot watches me get out of my car and will say something if anyone else tries to get in my car. There is an armed guard at the bank and ATM to be sure nothing happens to anyone. It feels like an extension of my neighbors who will question anyone they don’t know who stops on our street. Maybe it’s because anytime I have asked a security person or policeman for help they have gone out of their way to be helpful and courteous. Maybe it’s because I have had no bad experiences with these people. I have come to appreciate having them around.
I think those are the main things that come to mind. This afternoon I’m off to the fair with my neighbors, so I’m sure there will be more stories coming.
And, I am happy I’m not HERE (check out my husband in Maine digging the car out from under the snow!) Brrrrr