Newsletter #87
September 10, 2007

The Web's Only Peer-Reviewed Panama Newsletter
#87 Video, Gripes

Cool Video

Someone has put together a great video of the Balboa Avenue widening project, and you can see it at:

It's an impressive video and the parks and bike paths will be most welcome, but pay no attention whatever to that nonsense in the beginning about "FIN DE LOS TRANQUES"  Anyone who thinks this is going to end traffic congestion is on Crack. While it probably will speed up traffic on Balboa Avenue, there will still be narrow roads on each end, and all the feeder streets will be just as difficult to navigate as now.

Travel Tips - Revisited

When I wrote last issue's Travel Tips, I hoped readers would send some tips which I either overlooked or hadn't thought of. I wasn't disappointed.

Bob Askew writes:

As far as car items I definitely recommend a small machete -- single most important tool in Panama.  I also carry one of those Leatherman, multitool gizmos.  It's like a small tool set.
Also a flashlight and a clean towel or two.  My 4Runner has a neat cargo compartment for all this stuff.
And from Jose "Joe" Martinez:

It is better to get yourself a Small air pump that plugs into the cigarette lighter and couple that with one of those "fix a flat" spray bottles. This will fill your tire with white foam that will plug your leak well enough to make it off that busy road to a safer location or a gas station.

Thanks, guys, I appreciate the help.

Warning! Gripes Ahead

Some readers have complained about my gripes, suggesting I need to adopt a more positive attitude. Listen, there are lots of websites which will paint you a very rosy picture of Panama, and a few that feature nothing but complaints, but not many that try to convey the reality of living in Panama. That's what I want to get across, a feeling for what it's really like living here. So, an occasional gripe is unavoidable.

Supermarket Check Out - First, there's the conveyor belt. For some reason, the person in front of you seems compelled to start placing items on the belt (which is, of course, not moving) as far away from the cashier as possible, leaving you no room to put your items on the belt until the cashier finishes with the customer at the register. Once the cashier is ready for the customer in front of you, she may turn the belt on. If so, you can then proceed to put your purchases on the belt, taking care not to mix them with the previcous customer's purchases because there are no dividers to put between purchases. Once the customer in front of you pays, you figure it's your turn, but you failed to take into account the bag boy, who has waited patiently until the customer's transaction is complete to start bagging the groceries. So, you wait a little longer, and then some more for the bag boy to come out of his coma.

Doors - Most businesses in Panama have dual main doors, that is two doors in the same frame, one on the left, one on the right. Is there some law that says they can't unlock both of those doors? And in those few places where they do open both doors, why does everyone insist in going through on the left side? Why do most folks assume that if you pull the door open that it's your job to stand there and hold it open until everybody and his Uncle Jaime have gone through?

Left Lane Slowpokes - If you've driven more than five miles on a fourlane road in Panama this has happened to you. You're driving along at or a bit over the speed limit when you spot two cars ahead of you in the right lane. Now you and the other two cars may be the only traffic in sight, but just when you think you're going to get past them, the one behind whips into the left lane in front of you, sometimes forcing you to jam on the brakes. He slowly pulls up even with the other car, and..... nothing. He just sits there, sometimes for miles right beside the other nitwit. Just for what it's worth, I get a lot less of this when I'm driving the Suburban.

Trash Burners - If you follow Chiriqui Chatter ( Don Ray had a rant about this earlier this week, and I agree wholeheartedly with him that it is time to outlaw the practice of burning garbage in residential areas.

When it comes to burning garbage, and your neighbor's comfort, Panamanians are some of the most inconsiderate people on earth. Not to mention stupid, in some cases. A couple of years ago, there was a tanker filled with acetone parked not far from my house on a vacant lot. For several days, the strong odor of acetone would waft through the neighborhood. Of course complaining about it was a complete waste of time. One afternoon, the smell of burning garbage was mixed in with the acetone, and I went up the street to find the nitwits who had been hired to guard the equipment parked on the lot burning garbage not 20 feet from the leaky acetone tanker. They became visibly shaken when I explained to them how close to heaven they were.

Garbage Pickers - OK, I don't want to deny garbage pickers the privilege of going through my garbage for whatever useful stuff they can find, but enough is enough. I used to try to make it easy for them by separating usable stuff from the real garbage and even bagging aluminum cans. They rewarded me by ripping open the garbage bags and scattering the garbage. So, thinking maybe the twist ties were a bit too difficult for them to figure out, we started buying more expensive pull-string-top bags. Still, they rip the sides of the bags, making the bags useless and spilling the contents. If I could know for sure when the garbage truck is coming I'd put a lock on the garbage bin.

Bring Back the Magic
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