Friday, April 8, 2011


WHY I CANCELLED MY AIP (Americans in panama) MEMBERSHIP. I’m usually too busy to read -- let alone engage in all the chat groups that feature Panama. Since my doctor relegated me to a post- vegetative state while I recover, I spend more time on the computer. So I started reading the chat sites and the blogs. Reading AIP gave me gas. There’s a tourist named LLOYD posting long discourses about his freshman tour and sophomoric impressions of Panama. It’s posted in volumes and it’s TOTAL POLYANNA! I interjected that his long missives are better suited to a blog or a long letter home. Well, that scrambled the egg. Members jumped all over me. Not just one or two but a horde. Well, LLOYD, retrace your steps. We’ll take a different tour; one which is real and not misleading to the folks back home or the recent arrivals. First, when you get off the plane, don’t rent a car. Take a taxi or bus. That’s how 85% of the people in Panama travel. Have the taxi take you from the TOCUMEN airport, to the village of Tocumen. Then tell him to skip the corridor and the coastal strip and take you through the city to the Albrook bus terminal. Make a side trip to La Boca and see how the fishermen live. Once at the bus terminal, take the Panama – David bus. It’s pretty nice, unless it breaks down. When you reach the terminal in David, transfer to the Boquete bus…a school bus of unknown vintage with no air conditioning, hard seats, and stuffed with folks going to work. A lot of them getting on along the way and having to stand the entire trip. ARE YOU GETTINGTHE PICTURE, LLOYD? Okay, let’s skip the part where you enjoy the quaint B&B, the fine cuisine, beer and wine, the coffee tour, looking at gated communities and the like. I’ll pick you folk up in my car and we’ll spend some time exploring Chiriqui. Not far out of Boquete, situated near all those nice gated communities is a small complex called Casa Hogar, Trixer. On any given day there could be fifty to eighty orphan kids living in near poverty. Wanna stop in for a visit? Further down the hill, past Dolega is los Algorrobos. Here’s my old house, where I was robbed twice in one year. Let’s go across the hiway to the house when another gringo was murdered. We could spend several days viewing these crime scenes, but let’s move on… Here we are in David. First let me show you Nutre Hogar, a special home for malnourished children – under the age of five. Oh, look, there’s over forty of them. Shall we take the tour? Next stop the Regional hospital. Looks pretty good from the outside, right? What are all those people doing standing in line? Oh, gee, they’re trying to get in…let’s take the tour. Walk single file, the halls are crowded with sick and injured folks. Once in a while you’ll see a gurney parked with a dead person in a body bag. Oh look, there are sixty people in this ward and only two attendants. “I’m sure conditions will improve once the new subway is completed in Panama City” “LLOYD, you look pale. Maybe we should leave here and go have a drink at TGIF.” As we drive down the Inter-American I point to the taxi stand where I was almost stabbed and mugged in broad daylight. I show them the turn off to Villa Mercedes, an upscale community where another gringo was murdered. We get to the restaurant and we review the tour. “What? You didn’t like it?” This is just a small sampling. (The other side if the tourist brochure.) The entire population of Panama is 1/3 that of Chicago, USA. The difference is there is no safety net; no one to step in and keep you from starving to death. There’s no food stamps here. No welfare checks and an extremely low consideration for the working people. I doubt our waitress makes $300 a month. It’s been that way since I first arrived in 1951. “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” A lot of us old time gringos try to help…and we do in a small way. The applause you’re getting on AIP is from naive people looking for Shangri-la or local folks that have something to sell you…bank on it! “Okay, here’s what we can do… there’s two more orphanages we can visit, a large special needs school, a few more crime scenes and we can check in at the local prison and say howdy to Wild Bill. OR, I can drive you to the airport and you can GET THE HELL OUTTA HERE! Robert Hatting

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