PANAMA PERTINENT – LANGUAGE BARRIERS
Even if your plans are just to make a short visit to Panama, be prepared to speak some Spanish. That is the official language of Panama and they don’t go out of their way to make it easy for you. You’ll discover that when you arrive by Plane, boat, or bus. Part of the job description of the personnel that infest the customs and immigration sectors of government is to speak as fast as an auctioneer in technical and legal phrases.
One would think this is an oversight on the part of the government. You may not believe this but the system has been established by design. Once you have that bewildered look on your face and the frustration and hopelessness builds, along comes a Panamanian person that offers to help. He/she rattles off an oath in Spanish to the official, looks at your passport and then explains in broken English that he/she can help you. At this point you are willing to pay just about anything to be on your way.
BOOMER – BACK-STORY
My old riding partner owns a ranch outside Tucson Arizona. One of the buildings on his ranch is an old adobe that was once a Butterfield stage depot. Since my ranch adjoined his on the back side, we spent a lot of time helping one another instead of hiring help. When we had a few idle moments, we would ‘shade-up’ near the old stage building. I discovered a couple of arrow heads and several bullet slugs in the old adobe brick. It was evident a battle had been fought at the site. I did some research and found no evidence of any Indian attack during the time period the stage depot was operable. However, during my research I discovered an old article of a stage being held-up and the gold that was taken by the bandits was never recovered. Rick stated that he’d heard a story that the gold had been hidden in the back entrance to Colossal Cave (very close to Rick’s ranch). Legend also suggested that one of the bounty hunters of that era had killed the robbers and made off with the loot.
Rick and I went rooting around in the cave and found nothing that resembled hidden gold. I found a few obsidian arrowheads and Rick found an old spur; evidence that cowboys and Indians had both used the rear exit of Colossal Cave. During our search for the treasure, Rick told me that a member of his family served as a US Deputy Marshall when Arizona was still a territory. I did some research on his grandfather and discovered that Arizona Territory was the last of the contiguous states to be admitted into the union. I later used these facts as some of the basis for HALF BREED.
Boomer was originally written as a youth novel but has proven to be more popular with adults. It’s a period western but is more than a ride-shoot-shucks story. It has several layers and an actual mystery included in the major plot. It’s not your normal western novella. BOOMER measures around 80,000 words.
The next scene has many twists and turns depending on your participation. You can tip the helper and move on. You can offer to hire this person for the day, or even put the helper on call to be your permanent translator – visitor guide.
There’s a ninety percent probability that the official that put you into the state of confusion, followed by the feelings of relief and gratitude, will receive a portion of whatever you pay your helper. A portion will go right to the top of the pyramid. That’s how things work in Central and South America.
To avoid this scenario, learn a few phrases of Spanish. “I want to speak with your boss” shouldn’t be one of them. A haughty tourist is fodder for the unofficial system in place. You will be detained, hassled, and maybe asked to leave the country. You have to remember. You have no rights in this country; legal, civil, or moral!
A better and more disarming phrase is “My Panamanian partner will be here soon!” Usually your situation will be resolved within minutes and you will find that the official accidently learned a few words of English during your brief encounter.
Do yourself a favor. Learn some Spanish before you venture into Latin America. Your visit will be much more rewarding.