Panamanians like to burn their lawns here instead of mowing as they feel when the new grass comes in it's healthier. Yesterday our neighbor in the brown house next door who we'd never met before decided to burn his foot tall grass, instead of mowing. Suddenly our house was full of smoke and with no glass windows, we had no way to block it out. Fireman Clyde ran outside to keep a close watch on our hedges that run the fence line, making sure they didn't catch on fire. He grabbed a hose and started to soak them with water as the other side in the neighbors yard began to burn.
Next I hear him yelling at the neighbor in Spanish that our house if full of smoke and he needs to put the fire out already. The neighbor answered in English explaining that his yard is full of snakes since the grass is so tall, and that's why he needed to burn the grass. The man did at least apologize and said he was cleaning up the house since he has sold it to people from Miami. Clyde jokingly said "oh no, more gringo's," as he continued to water our hedges hoping to prevent them from burning.
A view over our hedges
A close up of the finely "coufierred" lawn
of my fine next door neighbor
of my fine next door neighbor
This unfortunately is one of the downfalls of living with the locals, since they see and do things a bit differently than Americans or Canadians. Instead of burning the lawn, us gringos buy a riding lawn mower or lawn tractor to tackle the job. And that's exactly what we did yesterday. Our Canadian friends had brought a lawn tractor with them from Canada but had no use for it on their property since it's hilly and covered with lush, thick jungle. Clyde gave it a whirl yesterday and is trying to convince me how much I will enjoy using it to mow the lawn while getting a tan at the same time.
Our other Panamanian neighbors had music blasting that was so loud it was clearly heard over the sound of the mower. They DO love their music here and even the poorest Panamanians will have big speakers to share their music with the neighbors. They did turn it off after sunset and things got quiet on that side of the street. But there is a house behind us that seemed to be filled with teenagers that drank the night away talking and laughing loudly into the morning hours. But since it cooled off a bit we were able to close the bedroom window to block out the noise.
Unlike living in the U.S. where we rarely saw or heard our neighbors, here the locals live outside more than in. Front doors on Panamanian homes are always open, and kids are outside all the time playing while the adults swing nearby in hammocks. And even through the long rainy season outside living continues since all homes have covered terraces or bohio's to protect them from the torrential rains.
Perhaps that's why expats choose to live in gated communities with other foreigners. Everyone can stay in their air conditioned homes, with windows shut tight and no need to talk to or see the neighbors. But then we'd have to ask ourselves why we moved here if we wanted to live just as we did back in the states? We enjoy the indoor - outdoor living just as much as the locals do and spend much of our day outside. In fact we have an outdoor kitchen in our gazebo along with an outdoor living room on our terrace. And I suppose we could even spend the night in our hammocks being rocked to sleep like babies in a cradle, providing a tasty treat for the mosquitoes.
Things are different here in Panamá, not better or worse just different. Our neighbor across the street is yelling at her teenager not unlike parents in other countries, while sweeping her front porch. People are the same but the way they live life is different. Still trying to figure things out in our new neighborhood, and our new country of Panamá......here along the gringo trail.