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opinion

Also in this section:
Panama Canal International Advisory Board, Support for canal expansion
Hahn, The other side of paradise

Bernal, The rector's alleged doctorate

Birns, Latin America's path away from US domination

Amnesty International, Overview of human rights in the Americas last year

Reporters Without Borders, Uruguayan journalist sentenced for insulting powerful Argentine
Committee to Protect Journalists, Another Cuban journalist jailed

Khalil, Political Islam vs the West

Gutman, Immigrants in the USA

Jackson, This past Memorial Day...

Sirias, Remembering heroes of old

Leis, The media, liquor and kids

The other side of paradise
by Susan Hahn

At the risk of offending the sensibilities of not only the expatriate Norte Americans, the Europeans, Latin Americans, grandmothers and the evangelistic following of the church of Panama --- and all the other believers in this Land of Enchantment, this author intends to highlight the little nasties that make this paradise an occasional Hell on Earth.

It’s not that I have anything against La Vita Loca. It’s just that I notice the size of the cockroaches. Now, tell me --- don’t you really see them slithering about with the other vermin?

You know the ones.

They’re known as “gringo pricing”, lake front views out of your car window ---and I’m talking about the roads here folks, garbage floating past in the beautiful Mar and scattered around your favorite restaurant, park, grocery store, fruit stand --- the list goes on and on. I’ll bet you have your own pet blight. Maybe it’s foreigners who complain about “the culture.”

My intention is to point out the foibles, frustrations, hair-pulling and suicidal ideation that come with the territory day to day.

So now comes the disclaimer which I offer as a token of peace. If there is a premise here, it is that you and I really do love this place. We wouldn’t trade it for the world. 1st World, 2nd World, whatever world we came from. Surely we can recognize the warts and laugh at them. After all, we chose to live here and we even brought some of those warts with us --- economy class --- right here to Bocas.

“Martin, did you say, “Zero Corruption?"

It took several months and more than a few Balboas to finally get the little laminated card that said I was a Pensionado Resident of Panama.

Actually it wouldn’t have taken so long if I didn’t have to wait for the repair of the camera at the immigration office. Then, when the camera was fixed, for the lamination materials. So, on my third jaunt to Changuinola, I finally got my card. Now I know the card allows one to benefit from all sorts of discounts. Something that’s on the butcher block, by the way, but that’s another column. The real reason I was so glad to have it was that the card said to all, “I belong here.” I live here now. I’ve committed to this island, this country.

So, in that spirit of belonging, I stupidly told the truth on my customs declaration flying into Panama City. I admitted it…I was carrying FOOD in my luggage. Oh Lord! What had I done? I found myself being ushered into the Brown line at the airport while all the other smiling passengers, shrouded in self-righteousness, stood in the benevolent glow of the coveted Green line. There might have been a neon sign flashing over my head: “Green Good ~ Brown Bad.” Soon I was standing at a counter facing my two inquisitors. Smiling young women who spoke no English, but had sicced a gang of five to root through my luggage which was not only on the counter, but strewn all over the floor behind me. My personal belongings were being plowed through with an occasional gleeful shout that must have meant “Eureka!” being uttered as each piece of contraband was discovered. Somehow my three precious bricks of aged, Extra Sharp Cheddar were on the counter, exposed for all to see. My Trader Joe’s Chocolate bars (yes, dear reader, the Dark Chocolate with Almonds), my boxes of chocolate hazelnut seashells, my case of Orange Zinfandel mustard. Oh the shame of it all. My new Costco gel-ink pens were being grabbed by the handful and tested.

Apparently they passed, because handfuls of said pens were being confiscated right into my inquisitors’ personal stash. I tried in vain to communicate with the now deliriously happy young ladies, but my Spanish was not up to the task. I know, I know, I’m trying to learn Spanish, but it’s hard to understand when you’re old, tired and having your chocolate appropriated before your eyes. In all fairness, they did allow me to take two of the three bricks of cheese, and they only kept enough boxes of chocolate for themselves to retain their lovely, youthful figures. I think my weeping softened their hearts.

From the objectivity of time and the peacefulness of chocolate induced euphoria, I find myself wondering why none of my letters to IDAN have been answered. Oh, did I say letters? We all know what happens to letters here in Paradise. I meant emails. Why can’t I get Rubén's email address? Doesn’t he care that I was officially and publicly robbed by his agency?

Does my story have a happy ending? We’ll see. I know I won’t be getting any medals for political correctness, but please don’t shoot the messenger. And please don’t find a new way to tax me or charge me a usage fee for my computer.

Don’t confiscate my pens because you like the way they write. Don’t sell me a vehicle off the show room floor and then deliver a broken used model and say it’s the same one. I’m just getting warmed up. I’d like to hear some of your stories and how you did or did not resolve them. You can email me at Bocas_Tsunami@yahoo.com or contact me through The Panama News.

 

See the author's website at http://www.susanhahn.net

 

Also in this section:
Panama Canal International Advisory Board, Support for canal expansion
Hahn, The other side of paradise

Bernal, The rector's alleged doctorate

Birns, Latin America's path away from US domination

Amnesty International, Overview of human rights in the Americas last year

Reporters Without Borders, Uruguayan journalist sentenced for insulting powerful Argentine
Committee to Protect Journalists, Another Cuban journalist jailed

Khalil, Political Islam vs the West

Gutman, Immigrants in the USA

Jackson, This past Memorial Day...

Sirias, Remembering heroes of old

Leis, The media, liquor and kids

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