I always enjoy lists. I like them even better when they’re not even a logical number. I decided to pick the numero ocho. Don’t know why – just sounds fun in Spanish I guess. And as luck would have it, I had this post pretty much ready to go, and then this f@cker posted his list of 15 tips to Mentally Prepare you For Life in Panama! Our buddy Chris’ post is a little different in that he describes why people leave, and it’s more city-focused, whereas I touch base on what to expect. And without further adieu…
8 Things to Expect as an Expat in Panama
8. Expect to sweat…a lot! Man, I used to sweat a lot in the humidity of the summer back home in Canada. I’d go through a few t-shirts a day. Now? I don’t even care, I just sweat out one shirt a day and to hell with it. Do I stink? Maybe. But Tom Cruise/Maverick isn’t going to walk up to me and say “Slider, you stink”, so who cares. Now, some of the mountain towns like Boquete and El Valle may be much more up your alley if you’re looking for cooler climates.
7. Expect to wait…a lot. Grocery store line-ups, traffic jams. $#!T, I went to Claro to get a new SIM card for my phone and was there for almost three hours – eerily close to the time frame of the three hour tour that kick-started Gilligan’s Island. Side note, why was it Gilligan’s Island? I mean that guy had to be the mousiest of the bunch and would always screw things up. How many times was HE the reason they DIDN’T get off the island, yet it was HIS island? What the $#!T? I’d be like, Gilligan, get the eff OFF this island you useless EFFING turd, or we’ll let those cannibals make dinner out of you!
6. Expect the unexpected. People have said that customer service is terrible here. Well, so far I’ve been experiencing the exact opposite. That three hours at Claro I just mentioned? Well, the dude was doing EVERYTHING he could to help me. It wasn’t his fault the SIM card he gave me was defective and got stuck in my phone, nor was it his fault that the next one didn’t work whenever my phone restarted. And this one time, (no not at band camp) when I was at Do-It centre in Chitre, I had not one, but two different employees ask me if I needed a hand. $#!T, that’s better service than a few of Canada’s leading hardware stores!
5. Expect to overpay for something because you’re white. I’m not a gringo. A gringo is an American. “Soy Canadiense” I always say. Doesn’t matter to the locals – I’m white. We all look the same I suppose, so you can get slightly taken advantage of because of it. Is it just? Nope. Does it bother me? Meh, I just try to avoid situations where it could happen. I’m not made of money, and unless people start following me like crazy and this blog catches fire faster than Drew Barrymore could set things ablaze in the movie Firestarter – I’ll be looking for work sooner than later! So I guess you just have to be careful of that kind of thing by knowing the price, or knowing what questions you’ll need to ask.
4. Expect that things aren’t the same as back home. Used to getting frozen pizzas at the grocery store for less than $5? Good luck. Like steak and can’t go without it? Stay home dude. Don’t like going to three different lines to set up and/or pay a bill? TFB, this is how they do it baby. Life is going to be different here and it’s not always gonna be $#!T’s and giggles. You might walk around a store for hours looking for something you’re jones-ing for from back home and you’ll probably end up singing some U2 – “I still…haven’t found…what I’m looking for”.
3. Expect power outages. We’ve been lucky and have only experienced blips on the radar so far, an hour here, five hours there, but when the dry season arrives we’ll be adjusting and will get to enjoy some home camping, I’m sure. And don’t be stupid and stock your freezer full of things like frozen pizzas, meats, peas, ice cream and whatnot. There’s a saying here – buy what you can afford to throw away.
2. Expect to not know where the hell North, South, East and West are, at least for the first little while. When you get here, the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west, problem is when it’s cloudy or mid-day, I’m just about clueless as to where the eff those directions are – and so are many others. Bring a compass, or download a compass app, otherwise, you may be lost more than viewers of the show LOST when they tried to pawn off that ludicrous ending on to viewers. Purgatory from day one.
1. Expect to get diarrhea…when you least expect it. Hey, everybody poops, and everybody has had the tourista trots. I think I was at the mall when my first bout struck. I also believe there are ways of minimizing it though. The water where we’re staying in Pedasi is well water, so it’s safe to drink, but other areas have city water and it’s still different than the water back home. Solution? Buy some bottled water. Drink half of it, then top the other half with local water. Slowly adjust. Or just buy beer, it’s $.65 cents a can and beer is actually an aid in stopping diarrhea. I know from experience.
Wow, a week ago I was struggling with analogies, but this post has more analogies than Justin Bieber jokes on a late night talk show.
Keep your bum dry and your patience in check folks!