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Rainy Season: Trials and Tribulations

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Written by Matt   
Tuesday, 08 May 2007 17:19
If you've ever heard me say that rainy season in Panama is innocent and that it won't ruin a vacation, physician I lied. The type of rain that Panama City has seen in the early days of May 2007 has been pseudo-cataclysmic. Let me explain.

They say the rainy season in Panama always starts around April but in reality the rainy season in Panama starts whenever the hell it wants to. It's an unpredictable and ferocious beast that doesn't take no crap from nobody. Old people in Florida complain about afternoon showers postponing their bingo tournaments in the park. Panamanians are concerned that the floods don't carry their small dogs out to sea.


The Eskimos call snow that doesn't stick "nootlin" and snow that sits on objects "ontla". Similarly, in Panama very light rain is known as “bajareque” [baha-reh-kay] and is usually no more than a subtle mist—barely rain at all. It's usually found in mountain areas like Boquete and Cerro Azul. Next would be “chispear” [cheese-pay-ar] or a sprinkle rain. This sprinkle is usually followed by a middle-intensity rain called “llovicna” [yoh-veez-nah] which then leads into the mammoth downpour called “aguacero” [agwa-sero]. This rain, if you haven't experienced it, can be crazy enough to shut down small towns.


The nice part is that you can usually see the storm coming—the dark clouds and blurry blue streaks a considerate warning to what might effectively become the last minutes of your life. The skies will darken as if one of Mother Nature's time bombs, just waiting to explode into a glorious and watery detonation. When the rains start, all you can do is hope that you have some cover.


The actual rainfall is often very patchy. It usually begins with some deep and guttural thunder reminiscent of a roaring passenger train in the distance. Then it'll come on with the promptness of a light switch: intense sheets of maraschino cherry-sized droplets. If you happen to be exploring the flat or mountainous roads of the interior, you may simply have to pull your car over and wait for the thing to pass. If you're in the city, you may drown.


Certain areas in Panama City flood. Violently. Dips in the road and valleys in neighborhoods turn into choppy little lakes and whirlpoolish ponds, where things like plastic jugs and Ford Windstars disappear like Ancient Egyptian pharaohs. You'll see little Panamanian hoodlums playing water baseball and water soccer and even sometimes out with their boogie boards. Trying to teach these kids that water and lightening are a bad mix is like trying to teach a turtle dove to use chopsticks, wasted.


I was on my way back from the beach when, from the Bridge of the Americas, I saw what appeared to be a monsoon settle right over the city. I braced myself for the rain that was to come by giving a pep talk to my car. “Have I told you lately that I love you?” I often like to befriend such inanimate objects before times of danger so that in case I pass away, I'd be the only one in heaven with a hot ride and an amp with 1200 watts.


We reached the city and the entrance to Transistmica, a seedy area of town, was flooded. Little boys waded in the surf collecting tin cans and little girls, presumably the girlfriends or child-wives, stood on the side screaming as if to say, “Mister, you get back here this instant!” Things like these transcend cultural boundaries.


My SUV waded through ankle-high water. Then came the shin-high level. Eventually, water was up to the waist! I had seen rip tides less powerful. My car chugged on as if in a previous life it had occupied the profession of amphibious assault vehicle: lunging/floating up and out of the ravine. That is, until it decided to die.


I was stuck in Chorillo: the one place guidebooks will tell you never to go even if you are heavily armed. I sat in my car, begging the thing to start: swearing that I'd use Premium gas for the rest of my life. “I promise,” I told the glove box. “I'll never slam you shut again.” I don't know why I was pleading to the glove box as it probably had little to no role in the day to day operations, but this was how desperate I had gotten.


The car was having none of it though when the alarm went off. I couldn't stop it. Loud whistles and rings and beeps drawing the wrong kind of attention to myself.


So there I was: little gringo sitting in a beeping car in the middle of the ghetto. I grasped tight the nearest and best weapon I could find, should I need it: several sheets of car insurance. (If worst came to worst, I would paper cut my assailants to death, or at least enough to buy me some running room.) It was in this predicament that everything started to become racial to me. I noticed that not only was my skin white, but my car, my hat, my t-shirt, my shoes were all white too. I had even convinced myself that perhaps I was a racist bigot. Around me stood people who represented a gamut of skin tones: of course, none of them the same as mine.


In a neighborhood notorious for car jackings though, the familiar sound of my car alarm appeared to befriend quite a few people, because in no time, I had a team of six or seven men helping push me out of the mess. I bought them all beers and after letting the electronic system dry out a bit, my baby started up again and I was on my way.

 

I told them I'd give them a shout out. So Alvaro, Miguel, Hector, Juan, Javier and the other one with the marble for an eye (I always forget your name), here ya go!


Just another droplet in the downpour that is rainy season in Panama.

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rainy season in Panama
written by Bonnie , June 08, 2007
So does that mean the trip was totally bad? I am going in July and worried this might happen to us?
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Not necessarily
written by Mateo , June 09, 2007
Hi Bonnie,
I would say no, not necessarily. The rain really does come in spurts. For example, when I wrote that article (before rainy season was actually supposed to have begun) it rained 5 days straight. Most recently though, it's been beautiful here in the city for like a week. So it's very touch and go. I say, don't worry about it. Come on down: if you're going to a drier region like Cocle or Azuero, no problemo. If you'll be in the city, you'll have fun either way--wet or dry.
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President (what????? why would that matter?) Oh right.... Ms.
written by C Fuller , July 05, 2007
I absolutely loved your article, except for the syntax and spelling errors, but well, this is the web, eh? I laughed so hard! Best thing I've seen on the web in a while. Anyway, do you live full time there, or are you selling the real estate in previous pages? Saw this on craigslist./sanantonio. The ads say cheap real estate, but they are anything but! I would expect a major villa ocean front for $400,000. Hell, I doubt if the Pres. of AT&T lives in a more expensive house here in S.A. We get mansions in this civilization for little or nothin' compared to Calif. How civilized is it there? Do I need to be fluent in Spanish? If I came there to live, can I make a living doing something that wouldn't require fluent Spanish? I run a small B&B in a resort town in Texas (new braunfels), but wonder if the investment card in rentals is the best one to play there. Write me off line if you wish. Are utilities the same as here? cable or dish, same 110-220v elec. svc.etc? My nephew in Japan cannot get English internet. Everything I send him ends in gibberish except what I type. He says it's not even Japanese. Lots of mana, mana? Thanks, C
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john oughton
rainy season
written by sutton47 , March 28, 2008
I arrive 31st March for my first fact finding mission to Panama. I just hope the rainy season is a little late this year.
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Last Updated on Monday, 11 August 2008 22:03
 
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