Sunday, September 28, 2008

Differences Between Panama and California

I'm back in the San Joaquin Valley of California and I miss Panama so much! My first few weeks back in North America were strange. I had forgotten the strange ways of the gringos.

For example, a few days after arriving I was driving along Blackstone Avenue in Fresno and was stopped at a red light. Intersections here in California have these strange four-stage light patterns where people go North-South, then North-South left turns, then East-West, then East-West left turns. Please, could we get any more organized? Can't I just push my way out into the traffic and turn, like I'm used to? So I was waiting and fiddling with the radio. Then I looked up and saw that I had the green light and all the traffic in front of me was long gone. And the people behind me were just patiently waiting! What? Come on people, how am I supposed to know the light has changed if you don't honk at me?

In fact the traffic here is eerily silent. Have we all gone deaf? Why do cars have horns if we don't use them? I feel like I'm in a silent movie.

So that's one thing.

Another is the dryness (see photo above). Ouch! My lips are cracked and my skin is drying out. I have to moisturize twice a day or my eyelids dry out! My friend Nora told me that she has the same experience when she visits Texas. She has to use eye drops every night, and eye gel during the day. I went for a vigorous walk and was breathing hard, and afterwards I had a slight rattle in my throat, almost a cough, from the dry air. Oh yeah, remember that? Never happens in Panama.

Do you have a problem with your jeans and heavy shirts mildewing? Just send them to California for a week, and I'll send them back bone-dry and summer sweet. Only a small fee for this service.

Rain... I miss the rain. I was filling my gas tank in Los Banos last week. The sun was beating down mercilessly, the air shimmering, and everything dry as a cow's skull (again, see photo above). The "Fresno River" outside of town looked like it had last seen water in the Jurassic period. Suddenly I remembered the daily rains in El Valle and I felt homesick for Panama.

People invite you to dinner at 7pm, and get this - they expect you to show up at 7pm! Ha ha! What kind of attitude is that? That leaves me no time to get ready, read a magazine and stop for ice cream!

You can't get anywhere on foot. Even in Panama City I could get around on foot, and in El Valle of course feet and bicycles were the norm. But here, only homeless people go on foot. Even teenagers take the bus if they are girls, or ride skateboards if they're boys.

Yes, so I'm experiencing some culture shock. My three years in Panama are such a sweet memory. I'll be returning soon to take care of unfinished business - I don't meant that to sound ominous - and I'm looking forward to it.


Henry in Panama said...

We miss you as much as you miss Panama, Wael, and will be experiencing that dryness in a couple of weeks. We're going to Texas.

Nora and Henry

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed your blog a lot and wish you well in your new adventures. I take this to mean that you are leaving Panama for the forseeable future?