11 de Ago de 2022

Nacional

From greenhorn to green lover

When I first came to Panama in 1985 it was the first time that I had visited what is commonly called a ‘Third World Country’. I had no p...

When I first came to Panama in 1985 it was the first time that I had visited what is commonly called a ‘Third World Country’. I had no preconceptions about what this meant, and was shocked by my first impressions of the country. The first thing I noticed was the incredible heat radiating off the tarmac at the airport. Then there was the over enthusiastic custom officers who wanted to search through our cases, looking for illegal or illicit material. All they found was dirty laun

· As we were driven by what was euphemistically called a taxi, at least fifteen years old and with questionable suspension, we bounced across the deeply potholed roads towards our destination in Parque Lefevre. En route I was amazed to see much rubbish and dilapidated buildings reflecting such obvious poverty in Panama.

· My next memorable experience led me to the supermarket where I was horrified to see security guards brandishing rusty pump action shotguns; I thought to myself I hope that they would never have to fire them as it was likely that they would backfire and kill the guard rather than any supposed villain they were chasing.

· Another security aspect which shocked me was all these metal gates and railings and even more disturbingly bars on every window. “Had I just entered Alcatraz? How could people live and work in these prisons?” I thought to myself.

However, none of these visual stimuli was as much as a shock as being stared at constantly every where I went. Now I began to realize how uncomfortable it must be to be a celebrity in constant fear of the paparazzi. The only problem with this notion, I was just a normal man minding my own business, I was totally intimidated and could not wait to return to my homeland where I just blended in with the rest of society.

It was 22 years later in 2002 that my wife and I returned to Panama. You may wonder why we returned when I had such a negative view from the first visit. The main reason for me at this time was the low cost of living in comparison to my home country of England.

As an example: cigarettes and gasoline costs around $10.00 a gallon (depending on the exchange rate). Food and utilities one really cannot compare like for like as they are so exorbitant in my homeland you would not believe it.

Probably the most important change was in me, I was no longer naïve. I knew what to expect and accepted the country for what it had to offer. I now found that I was not stared at as much, possibly due to more foreigners now living in Panama or perhaps I didn’t notice it as I once did. Also, the country has changed so much one can barely recognize the old Panama. Is it all for the good? I am not sure, as the cost of living has increased but so have the opportunities for the average person residing here.

Having now lived and travelled a large part of Panama my whole attitude has changed towards the country. It has given me opportunities I would never be able to get in my homeland. The country has beautiful beaches, crystal clear water with an abundance of sea and fresh water fish in the rivers. Now Panama have truly first world malls to shop in and restaurants to cover every delicacy the heart desires. The wild life and fauna are stunningly beautiful and I can see why so many Panamanians never leave their country. I am with them, and have no intention of returning to my homeland, I am afraid Panama now has another foreigner for life.