Medical marijuana in Panama?

A reader wrote me and asked "if Panama is considering allowing expats to use marijuana for medical purposes."

As it turns out, legislation to allow that is currently in the National Assembly.  Many doubt that it will pass the first time around, but we really do not know since this has not been proposed "officially" before.  Early next year, we will see.

I also mentioned that whatever decision was made, it would be for all citizens and residents, not simply expats.  Residents are treated the same as citizens in most legal matters, but "expats" have no special status.

Here come the trees!

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here.  Americans brought that custom down and it was embraced by many here in Panama, as is true in other nations like Brazil.  It is a wonderful holiday because it is not about "what you get", but about "what you are thankful for having received" and has a universal appeal as a result.

Today is Black Friday, another custom from up north that has truly gone global.  For me, it is a good excuse to stay inside and away from the malls!

These are both signs of the beginning of the "official" Christmas shopping season, but the real sign in my mind was the arrival a few days ago of 113,000 Christmas trees in refrigerated containers from Canada.  By today, we should see them on sale all over the city and outside, but probably at prices higher than I want to spend.  I think I will be just as happy to wrap my strings of tree lights around the railing of my balcony.  It is cheaper and adds some color to the neighborhood.  I may be cheap, but I am still cheerful!

A Dry Rainy Season?

One of my least favorite things is a head cold, but my little virus friend found a home and settled in!  That is ending now and life returns to normal.  In English, we call them "colds", but they have nothing to do with the air temperature, so the guilty virus is just as happy in a tropical climate as anywhere else!  Well, in any case, I am delighted to wish my virus a not-so-fond farewell and be back to work!

About a week ago, we heard that this year's "rainy season" was the driest since 1939.  I am nearing the end of my 14th year in Panama and I have experienced one "dry rainy season" before.  We all had to conserve water and we did.  Actually, I was impressed at how the society adapted to the situation.  We came through it without any significant damage, even though the warning came later than it should have.

This time, the warning came in advance.  So what happened?  The rains came!  We have had more rain in the last week than in the three or four weeks before.  We will not know for a while if the problem is over, so conservation continues to be the policy.  I am very happy to cooperate.  Better to be over-cautious than fail.  However, I am very pleased to see the authorities acting much more quickly than in the past, so I am not going to worry about this.  On the contrary, this kind of "problem" is a blessing when it causes us to be more careful.

Patriotism in Panama

November is a month of "patriotic days" in Panama.  This last week, we had four.  Nov 3 was "Separation Day" when Panama "separated" (declared its independence) from Colombia in 1903.  It is called Separation Day because Panama already has an Independence Day.  More on that later.

Nov 4 was Flag Day with parades around the nation.  Nov 5 was Colón Day, celebrated in Colón at the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal.  Colón is the Spanish for Columbus, as in Christopher Columbus. Yesterday, Nov 10, celebrated the "Cry for Independence" adopted by a small town in the countryside in 1821 to press the folks in Panama City to stop talking and do something about gaining independence from Spain.  It worked.  So on Nov 28, we will celebrate Panama's independence from Spain, but since it was small and not able to defend itself, Panama joined Gran Colombia (Great Colombia) in 1821, formed by what is today Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, northern Peru, western Guyana and northwest Brazil.

This history is one of the reasons why Panama has been traditionally considered part of South America, not Central America.  Ask someone from El Salvador or Guatemala if Panama is part of Central America and they will probably set you straight!  But foreigners see a small nation next to another small nation in Central America (Costa Rica) and assume we are identical.  We are not.  Except for small groups further west in the nation, Panamanians even speak a different version of Spanish, called "tuteo", while Costa Ricans use "voseo".  Don't worry about it.  No one in Panama really cares.  We get along fine with the folks in Costa Rica.  We get along with both our neighbors, but we are Panama, the land bridge between two great continents and the water bridge between arth's two greatest oceans.  That is good enough!

In the beginning...

This is a new section, similar to a blog, and this is the first post.  I hope to get something up on a weekly basis.  My workload gets pretty heavy sometimes, but I will do my best.  And yes, that is me on the right in the photo at the top of this page on my way to Casco Viejo (also known as Casco Antiguo), the old quarter of Panama City with its combination of Spanish, French, and American architecture with history from centuries past in every building and brick.  One of the most popular places to go for great food and great entertainment, known for its jazz clubs and much more.