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Coming Home to a Post-it

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Written by Matt   
Thursday, 03 April 2008 12:25
Post-It Note in Panama As a young person in Panama, sharing an apartment with someone might just be the best decision you ever make. It slashes rent in half, offers a kind of default social life, and can even be the catalyst for various business endeavors. When I arrived in Panama though, I wanted originally to live with no one but myself.
Nearly every night of my college career was spent sleeping in the same room as someone else, and while that might sound impressive to some, as if I was a wildly addictive ladies man, it was normally not my doing but rather that of the University housing coordinator who, my freshman year, punished me with a roommate who had the personality of an external hard drive.

"What time do you usually go to sleep?" I remember asking him around 5 AM our first weeknight in the same room. Before college I had grown accustomed to sleeping in my own bed, a big one at that, kept company by my own television, my own fireplace and my own bathroom, all of whom went to sleep when I did. So as you might imagine, it was an alarming change to be asked to sleep in a room no bigger than a pantry with a young man I knew nothing about.

I had made several attempts before college started to get in touch with my future roommate as a show of good faith. But all of my calls were answered by his mother who revealed that while Adam was there in the house, he probably couldn't speak because he was engaged in some sort of electronic combat. I can now look back on it amusingly, but at the time, Adam's shouting from the back room sounded strangely psycho-like. "Mom, what did I tell you about interrupting me on level four? Do it again and you're toast!"

"But it's your college roommate honey. He's calling to ask if you're bringing a microwave."

"Toast, Mah!"

It shouldn't be surprising then, that our first few months were considerably more awkward than those of other roommate pairings. While our neighbors spent afternoons putting up Playboy posters on the wall and sharing gossip about local sluts, my roommate and I consumed large amounts of time in pure and graceless silence. I would make efforts every now and then to get him going, thinking to myself that maybe he'd warm up over time, but towards the end of second semester, I realized doing so was a lost cause.

Warcraft, PanamaAdam spent every waking hour that he wasn't in class in front of his computer playing a game called Warcraft in which, to the best of my knowledge, players use small elves in an attempt to conquer villages. It was an online game which he played against other nerds around the world in an arena that I used to call his window to the world. He'd occasionally let out small cries, the meanings of which I became notably adept at identifying. "You lose the ogre sword thingy again?" I might have asked while organizing my secret stash of schnapps. "That's like the fifth one you've lost this week!"

While the average student may have considered this an annoyance, a roommate that never left the room, I found delight in being the only one in my class with his own personal assistant. Blonde Jessica stopped by, a sticky note on my computer once began. She wants her iPod back. Also, your mom called and wants you to call her tomorrow. Keith says your soccer practice tonight is at 8:30. PS. Have you seen my fig newtons?

It was great having a secretary like Adam: quiet, good-natured and reliable as the morning sun. Leaving to play hooky for the day, I'd prep him with directions should any of my outside business find its way to room 204. I'll be back this evening. If any of my teachers call, tell them I'm sick. And when you get a chance, could you tidy up the closet? It's looking pretty bad.

There were even times when I'd be in the room, studying on my bed, uninterested in taking a call. "Can you just answer that and take a message for me? Thanks buddy."

As my years in college escalated, so too did the quality of my roommates, but I'd never forget that year I spent with Adam: him stationed by his desk like a wonderful little receptionist. Living with a roommate simply became a way of life for me, until I entered what handbooks referred to as "the real world" in which a number of new doors were opened.

Ron Abuelo, Panama My friends flocked like the salmon of Capistrano to major hubs like New York and DC to wear suits and eat $15 lunches, and while I decided to take the road less traveled, I was pretty sure that life in "the real world" had universally nothing in common with the reality show portraying it on MTV. There were no gratis luxurious apartments or beautiful women in bikinis dancing on my dining room table. I realized this further when I arrived in Panama's Tocumen airport for the first time to find that the person picking me up had forgotten about the flight altogether. My taxi broke down on Corredor Sur and my taxista appeared to be under the influence of something called Ron Abuelo.

I began living on my own in El Cangrejo in an apartment I found through a friend. Having my own place was a milestone akin to a Bar Mitzvah: this feeling of freedom and independence that said I had finally made it on the big stage. It was on this big stage that I soon realized there was no free cable.

The big stage was a large one-bedroom apartment owned by a Panamanian-Chinese man named Senor Lee who answered my phone calls and stopped by the place only when rent was due. I felt it premature to complain about his poor service though, considering the apartment cost $200 a month.

Living without roommates compounded the novelty of Panama for me, making a new thing even more enigmatic. I felt liberated the way professional baseball players must feel upon shedding their batting donuts, like a vital weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I was free to take on the world. But when rental rates increased and traffic congestion got unpleasant in El Cangrejo, I found myself reverting to the one thing I knew well, and that was living with someone else.

There are a lot of young expats in Panama looking for good places to live. And finding a good apartment, thus splitting the cost can benefit more than just your finances or the need for an external secretary. It can be the breeding ground for new business ideas, it can be a networking tool like no other, and it might at the very least provide you the foreigner with a familiar, albeit reluctant sense of home.

(Image of Post-it note used from www.geekologie.com/2007/11/29/the-new-postit.jpg)


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Hahahaha
written by Chori , April 03, 2008
very funy article. good information too. i agree 100%
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written by tejano , April 20, 2008
still living in the city I'm guessing? Still in El Cangrejo? Paying quite a bit more than 200 Im guessing.
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written by satisfied customer , January 21, 2009
quote: "flocked like the salmon of Capistrano ..."

Dewd, it's 'swallows of Capistrano ...'

Or was that intentional?
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Last Updated on Monday, 11 August 2008 21:28
 
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