I lived about five years in Panama and there were only a few days when I could see the sun. Mostly it rained. It had two seasons– dry and wet.
Wet season it rained all day long for days. Dry season it rained maybe once or twice in an afternoon. Sometimes we would sit under an umbrella and look for the moon. There were so many clouds that only the moon shown through. For the years I lived there, I missed the stars.
But there is something good to say for so much rain. It is always green. The wild grass if not cut would grow six feet in a couple of months. The bad thing about rain is the humidity. Leather didn’t last in such conditions. My late hubby put a belt in the closet and forgot about it. In a few months it was wet and dripping with mold.
When we finally left the place and moved back to the States, we had to wash everything. Any furniture we brought back, we had to clean with a wet vacuum. While you were in Panama, you were so used to the smell that you didn’t know how much mold you carried in your clothing.
Another fun fact about Panama when I was there is that the electricity was so expensive that no one had an air conditioner. Also during the dry season, the electricity could be shut off for hours or sometimes a week if there was not enough to go around. The electricity was generated by the Panama Canal, which provided energy to Panama City. I think it also provided electricity to Colon on the other side of the canal. When we got tired of living in such humidity we would spend a three day weekend at the Marriott Hotel. They had generators for the time there wasn’t enough electricity to go around. Plus they had real air conditioners. It was in Panama that I got a real appreciation for the US.
I really like how the US invents new ways to make the lives of their citizens better. Or at least it was like that in the 80s and 90s. We would come back to the States for vacation and would be amazed at the newest trinkets and the freshest air. In Panama City they were still using lead in their gasoline. You would see billows of black smoke going out of the buses as they rushed down the main streets. Also the buses were all privately own– think private cabs. They went where ever the bus driver wanted to go. You also had to have a good relationship with the driver.
It was not a good thing to be an American during Mardi Gras. I remember that some of the soldiers liked to party downtown. They would be surrounded by young men who would slice their pockets and steal whatever was in them. It was such a common practice that soldiers and airmen were not allowed off base during holidays.
What I miss about Panama were the animals. We used to see the toucans fly by twice a year. They were shy and would sit in the tops of the trees burring at each other. Or the monkeys who would sit in the trees and wag their butts at us. There were lizards, and spiders, and snakes. Thankfully I didn’t see too many of them. They hid in the foliage.
There were small wild cats that roamed the bases. And I learned about parrots. The little green ones are pests. They would sit on the eaves of the houses during a wild rain and chirp at each other. They would be so loud that they would drown out the rain and any conversation you could be having.
I wouldn’t have stayed in Panama except my late hubby asked me to come. Because I made that decision, another turning point in my life, I had twenty two years with him as a husband and protector.
I may miss the rain now, but then I wanted to get back to civilization with a little less humidity. I also learned that because of a government that ran on bribes, you couldn’t rely on a government to even get the mail to your house. If you wanted to live and survive in that environment you made friends with the same values and you helped each other.
A lot of people lived in compounds and would pool money to pay for guards.
It’s been a long time now since I was in Panama (left in 1997) and for our sins I am seeing the signs that we might be going in the direction of Panama. I hope not.