Keeping It Real


One thing I find interesting here in Panama are the frank comments people make about each other in the absence of both political correctness and phony attempts to be overly polite.

When I saw a neighbor’s dog on the loose a few weeks ago, I went to a couple of nearby building security guards and asked them if they knew the owner.  “La China,” they both replied, one pointing me in the direction of the house on the corner.  After meeting her the next week on the street, I learn she’s not Chinese, she’s Korean.  I mention this mis-categorization to my Mom and she’s not surprised; apparently the same term — China/o — is often used to refer to Asians in general.

Thrilled with Obama’s victory, a Facebook acquaintance posts, “Ganó el Negritooooooooo! Yes, Adios Republicanos…”  I’ve never heard Obama referred to as “el Negrito” before but then I’ve never been here during a US election.

During a TV morning show taping a few weeks ago, a group of cooking contestants and I were interviewed live by the perky, Panamanian host.  We each told our name, what we planned to cook and where we were from.  When the host reached one contest who is quite large he mentioned something about the fact that he likes to cook.  Her response: “Si, se nota.”  Fortunately, he was a good sport and chuckled.  Considering he lives here, it’s probably not the first time someone has commented on his size.

And he’s not alone in receiving gordo comments.  After returning from my Vegas trip, Dad’s very observant assistant took one look at me and said, “Something is different.”  I start to tell her that I got my haircut and she asks, “Did you gain weight?”  Um, actually, yes, I did.  But I got my haircut, too.  For some reason, I hoped she would notice that first.


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