As the road curved around toward the left I could hear a guttural, throaty sound coming from back of a farm. It sounded like a distressed animal or a human being held against his will locked up in the attic. Since I noticed tan and black colored large goats munching on grass, the strange sounds must have been another goat just making himself known.
Up ahead on the right was a fenced in area with tan, brown and black cows who stopped chewing long enough to give us a strange look. Had they not seen a gringo before, or perhaps they never saw a human walking a dog. Panamanians don't usually walk their dogs, in fact their dogs tend to just live in the streets and everyone is invited to throw them some food once in a while.
As I admired the majestic mountains in the distance I breathed in the fresh, tropical air. Suddenly it hit me and I had to remind myself where I was. As my mouth spontaneously curled up into a smile, a bright wave went thought my brain. I am an expat living in a foreign country. With the encouragement of my brave, adventurous husband we really did it. We paid off the bills, quit our jobs and moved our lives to Panamá. And during our first year here we bought a house, in a country setting surrounded by a lush, tropical garden.
Making an about face since the road dead-ended, we headed back toward home. Small private planes perched on grassy areas next to a single runway, filled the landscape along side the road. During World War II this tiny airport served as an auxiliary facility to Howard Air Force Base in the city. Today small private and charter flights come into this airport which presents such a contrast next to the poor Panamanian neighborhoods that sit nearby. Every time I hear an engine rev up it brings me back to the day of our skydiving experience.
As I approached our home I could see Clyde trimming hedges and working on the yard. I heard someone yell "hey" off in the distance but didn't think anything of it since there are parrots around that say that word for hours at a time. . I kept walking and decided to walk around the block so Venus could see the other neighborhood dogs and they could see the new girl in the hood. Our friend Daniel was outside his house so I stopped to chat a few minutes. Two little Panamanian girls yelled "hola" to which I responded the same. They seemed to tag along joining us on our walk, skipping and looking at Venus. A man on a bicycle drove by Daniels house and I thought he was with the little girls.
As I made it back around the corner the little girls had taken off but the man on the bike was still riding nearby. He started saying something in Spanish about the dog and stopped riding to strike up a conversation. Apparently he had a dog or dogs, and was telling me about them. He asked me if I spoke Spanish and I said "un poco" which means "a little." His smile turned to a frown with that answer as he seemingly wanted to talk. Asking if I moved here from the U.S. I filled him in with a few tidbits. Finally I ended the conversation by saying "buen dia.....ciao," good day and bye and headed home. Clyde was happy to hear that I was interacting with the neighbors, although I'm not sure if sure if the man was trying to pick up a gringa or just be neighborly.
This neighborly encounter made me question "are we really safe here?" So many foreigners move here and worry constantly about being robbed or taken advantage of by the locals. Here I am walking alone near a tiny airport early in the morning feeling perfectly safe, enjoying the day and the scenery. Ok so the fact that I have a 70 pound doberman by my side probably assures my safety, but in general are we safe? We both feel safe here although we do take precautions like we did in the U.S. And making some contacts with neighbors we feel also helps. Our neighbor Victor with his toothless smile, that happily hauled off our old toilets and other junk, is selling the stuff to make money. Since we helped him out hopefully he'll watch our home when we're away.
A big part of being here and practicing the language is the willingness to feel stupid and say "no comprende." Clyde adapted well to this quickly since he's the one that talks to store clerks trying to find things. At first I had this fear of what will happen if I don't understand what someone is saying? Of course the answer is to just admit it to them, ask them to speak slower, and explain that I am trying to learn Spanish. Funny but many Panamanians have told us that to be successful in this world they need to learn English. But for us just being able to survive happily in a Spanish speaking country is why we need to speak Spanish.
Today we'll spend our time wrapping up some loose ends in the house before heading over to the pool in Punta Chame for a relaxing afternoon, as long as it doesn't rain. The birds are chirping and the sun is shining over some puffy greyish clouds hanging low in the sky. It's a balmy 80 degrees as usual which just means, another day in paradise in Panamá....along the gringo trail.
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