Tuesday, March 8, 2011

quiet carnaval

sleeping queen

I've lived outside of Canada for eight years now.  Something I've learned is, that no matter how long you live somewhere, you are always a foreigner.  I have met some amazingly, assimilated foreigners in Latin America, but they are always introduced with some reference to their foreignness.  One of my neighbours is a ninety-five year old man who came to Panama from Yugoslavia in his twenties; he has pretty much lived his entire life in this country, and is still a foreigner.

To my thinking, this is not bad, in fact, this is what is great about being an expat.  You get to exist in a limbo between the social norms of your passport-issuing country and the norms of where you are living.   If something you do seems weird to people, they will excuse you because you are foreign.  It means you get to travel like a tourist.  You can go places that are locally stigmatized by race and class (seriously, if you limited yourself to the beaches that middle-class Panamanians frequent you would miss some of the nicest spots).   It's very freeing.  

Our first months in Panama we went to Carnaval here in the city.  We had no idea that this was considered dangerous, and we even took the kids to the evening concert (we left before the big reggaeton star hit the stage--we were oblivious but not stupid).  It was a good experience, I love the raucous, fun-loving spirit of Panama and that is the main feature of Carnaval.

It's Carnaval again in Panama this week.  We've never been to the traditional Carnaval celebrations in the interior, and someday I'd love to go.  I love seeing everyone all packed up (cars loaded down with mattresses, and buckets for the water fights). I love seeing the large, colourful floats parked on side streets.   I love that my kids have no school this week.  But because of work and bad planning, we are just relaxing and laying low at home.  The city is weirdly empty and quiet, which is nice in its own way too.

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