U.S. expat friends of ours recently opened up a Mexican Restaurant here in Panama, and were telling us about some strange superstitions that some Panamanians believe are true. They had to deal with hiring help for the restaurant and while training them they discovered some peculiar issues. Being the skeptic, I did some further research to validate their stories.
Weather in Panama is hot all year round, and the locals have some strange beliefs about going from hot to cold. When cooking over a hot stove, ironing or working outside in the heat they will NOT shower or bathe until the next day. To do so they believe that the change from hot to cold will cause paralysis, seizures, brain aneurysms and arthritis. Anything considered to be a HOT activity like working outside, having a baby, sex, or ironing must never be followed by a cold shower. Most Panamanians do not have hot water, so showers are usually cool. This dangerous practice of showering could be detrimental and cause non-reversable deformity. This condition caused by the hot-cold transition is called "espasmo."
When ironing never come in contact with moisture of any type be it the toilet, sink, or a downpour of rain or half of your face will freeze for all eternity.
Panamanians love to drink alcohol but will NEVER eat watermelon in the vicinity of alcohol, because of the same condition.
Don't let children out at night because there's a "night breath" or fog that carries bacteria. We see kids outside at night all the time here, so perhaps some are hoping their kiddo's get taken away by the fog.
When attending a funeral if you step on the land, wash your clothes immediately afterwards or harm may come to you.
If a tiny bit of dirt is taken from a graveyard, dropped elsewhere and someone steps in it they can be harmed.
Although it's rare to see a Panamanian that smokes, they will open packages of cigarettes from the bottom. They believe that diseases like pink-eye can be picked up by touching the tobacco end. So they are less likely to spread the disease if someone borrows a cigarette. That way they won't have pink-eye when dying from lung cancer I guess.
I remember as a kid growing up in New Jersey my mom and grandmother had some strange, hocus pocus superstitions. When us kids had a sore throat we were told to wrap our dirty socks around our necks. Since I was an amazingly, cute,(not) cubby kid I was always getting my cheeks pinched. Later on when I'd yawn my mom said I had been "overlooked" by that person and she'd perform a ritual on me. Although I don't remember much of this embarrasing ritual by choice, it had something to do with her spitting on her finger and touching parts of my face. I'm sure my sister will read this and remember the correct version of this ritual.
So the next time you see us if our physical appearances have changed in any way, such as more wrinkles, sagging skin, grayer hair, or any other strange symptoms, just chalk it up to too many cool showers. And I will just keep protecting my health by not touching an iron or frypan to assure that espasmo will never set in. But as for now I'd better head in to take yet another cool shower to beat the heat and humidity.... along the gringo trail.
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