On Returning To America After Life In Panama » VSB

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On Returning To America After Life In Panama

(Alex Hardy/VSB)

 

I just moved back to the States after roughly two-and-a-half years in Panama City. I spent my time there teaching Business English, dance, and fitness classes, as well as becoming fluent in Spanish. I also consumed enough calories to put your most bisonly uncle to shame and learned about my family’s Panamanian/Jamaican roots. It was a highly transformative experience that taught me a great many things about myself, the wonders of food prepared by Black hands, and the world.

I plan to spend the next few months here in 1998, Virginia, recharging, writing like a motherfucker, and backflipping into The Land of Thirty this December with a peaceful mind and a flat stomach. Here are a few thoughts upon returning Stateside from my mom’s country of birth.

Humidity is overrated

Living in a tropical country sounds great in theory. The thought of having access to fresh coconut water, cheap plantain by the metric fucktonne, and burly Caribbean-descendant men with great skin sounds marvelous when demonic blizzards accost your well being all winter. Yes, being able to wear tank tops every day if I so choose is an amazing feeling. But there is one thing, aside from limited access to red velvet goodness, that makes life in the Platano Belt challenging: the motherfucking murderous humidity.

As a person who wasn’t raised in that suffocating dewy terror, I never quite adjusted to wearing business casual foolishness as the sun twerks pon the nape of my neck. Every journey outside is a test of your deodorant’s effectiveness and once you realize that Speed Stick has failed you, so, too, has everyone in your vicinity. Some baby powder generously applied your thighs may at least delay its arrival, but swamp crotch is definitely coming for that ass. Your grand, Pinterest-approved towering #NaturalHair situation and your $40 Magical Negro 4B curl pattern-fortifying serum are no match for 90% humidity and nine months of rain. Forget it. Central air conditioning in Panama is as rare as an enjoyable post-Y2K Diddy verse and perpetual glistening gets old, so remember: a lightweight fabric a day keeps the tart armpits at bay.

Being able to masturbate and nap in the middle of the day is a luxury everyone should experience at least once.

Teaching private Business English and fitness classes gave me a fairly flexible schedule and all the free time a full-time pervert could ever wish for. Though being completely independent had its struggles, being able to walk in from a stressful class, head over to MyVidster and buss it down at noon while my teacher friends were battling prepubescent terrorists was a blessing. There is a certain freedom in waking up nine minutes later in the same pants-free position as your homies tweet hatebombs at their coworkers. Look. Wearing eight different hats in your business is hard. Managing invoices, lesson plans and inconsiderate fucknuggets with excuses aplenty while learning a second language can be a lot to manage. And then a post-skeet nappity nap comes along, giving me the strength to carry on, and coping becomes a little less difficult. It’s a beautiful thing. Trust me.

Showering with cold water isn’t all that bad.

In two out of three apartments I lived in, the shower faucet only turned one way: On. Initially, this was an assault on my first-world sensibilities, but I grew to appreciate and look forward to a cold shower after braving that booty-moistening heat. Panama is hot as all of the fuck, all of the time, and some days were too simply oppressively sweltering for hot showers. Cold showers aided in water preservation, because luxuriating in chilly, nipple-hardening water isn’t quite the same as loving yourself down in a steamy shower situation.

This taught me a great deal about what I require to be okay. Being honest, all I need in this life of sin is me and my [chicken]. Aside from that, some flavorful food, lube, a flat pillow, and wi-fi will keep me jolly. A hot shower, surprisingly, isn’t a deal breaker. Imagine the firestorm of surly tweets and angry Yelp rantings that would result from a lack of hot water Stateside.. ‘Twas not easy at first. It took about a week of adjustment, but I survived.

Learning to laugh at bullshit is important.

I spent my first year in Panama reacting to every perceived slight. Everything was an outrage. The poor customer service, the issues with infrastructure and the circle jerk bureaucracy infuriated me daily. Being profiled by uniformed fuckboys, ignored by salespeople, and feared by nervous, eye contact-avoiding women tap danced on my nerves at every turn. I became an angry Black man in Panama.

Eventually, a friend told me that the only way to avoid jumping off a building was to learn to relax, to breathe. Lacking customer service and distressing amount of unnecessary paperwork are not personal affronts. It is impossible to kill or educate every racist taxi driver who ignores your waiting Black body as a manifestation of their dick envy. Spending each day emotionally reacting to terribleness, especially White Terribleness, is a guaranteed way to bring about a heart attack. Sometimes, we have to let people fester and drown in their own terribleness.

And so, I started laughing at the bullshit. I laughed in cops’ faces when they tried to harass my spirit on street corners. I laughed at lazy cashiers who used “No” to mean “You expect me to walk to the back to find that for you? Ha!” I laughed during my drawn-out citizenship ordeal. I laughed when chicken spot employees were unwilling or needed to call the owner to substitute plantain for fries although they were all the same price. I laughed when I would walk into Office Depot and have to hunt for assistance as a carefree White or Latina woman strolled aisles with three employees serving as her personal shopping underlings. I laughed to avoid stabby rampages. And it worked.

But remember: embarrassing someone in front of their peers does wonders for Black rage. Never underestimate the power of a good public shaming.

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Alex Hardy

Alexander Hardy is the dance captain for Saint Damita Jo Jackson's Royal Army. He is a writer who escaped Hampton, Virginia and is now based in Panama City, Panama. There, he runs The Colored Boy, and consumes copious amounts of chicken. He has written for EBONY.com, CNN, Gawker, and Huffington Post among other outlets. Alexander can likely be found daydreaming about his next meal or Blacking It Up on someone's dance floor. He also doesn't believe in snow or Delaware. Read more from Alex at www.thecoloredboy.com

  • Margaret

    I love this because I totally feel you! I have learned to love being in America and all of the luxuries that come with it. Though I will always love and long for Latin America, after living in Peru I was just worn out from all of the things that you mentioned (minus the heat) and I am thankful to be back. Welcome back sir!

  • CamCamtheGreat

    “Humidity is overrated.”

    Truth. I’m a South Florida boy, born and raised, so I know all about it. Drenched from head to toe about 2 minutes after walking outside. It is what it is though. You get used to it.

    And I actually tried the cold shower thing a few months back because I read a blog post about some guy who exclusively took cold showers and blah blah blah. I did get used to it, but I had to switch back. Now I’ve settled somewhere in the lukewarm territory. It’s perfect.

    • menajeanmaehightower

      People who crave humidity are those that were never born in the country of a southern state. I grew up without air conditioning in SC with no ocean breeze and the temperature would get up to 100 with stupid humidity. No thank you. Never again.

      • I was born in TX and raised in FL…I am native to heat and humidity. lol. I’d rather be overly hot than cold.

        • menajeanmaehightower

          Not I. To this day, my place is near freezing. Even in the winter, i will turn on the fan. As a kid i HAD to sleep with covers on me (still do to this day) and i would dang near suffocate and my clothing would be soaked with sweat. We had fans but all it did was circulate hot crusty humid air. The memories!!!!!!

          • camilleblu

            i keep it cold too mjm…i’d rather be in a cold house than a hot one on any day.

            • LMNOP

              What about on a cold day?

              • camilleblu

                Lol….no – I want a warmish house on a cold day – but not hot.

        • Epsilonicus

          I know not to come to your house. I need a cold house.

      • b sweet

        I love humidity, and I grew up in the humidity capital of the south. I don’t sweat a lot, so I like to put myself in situations that force me to sweat, and even then it’s a little trickle on my nose and maybe my forehead.
        I’m definitely a hot girl. I’m with Dara, I’d rather be hot than cold any day.

        • camilleblu

          girl…i’ll mos def take hot weather over cold any day – my issue is i want hot weather with a cold house. i literally cannot think straight when i’m miserably hot…just start talking real stoopid n’shyt. lol.

          • b sweet

            LOL. Have a blanket ready for me when I come over-I am miserable in a cold house. Even late at night, when I actually like it cold, the absolute lowest I can do is 70 degrees.

            • camilleblu

              oh, well then you might could need a parka when i turn it down to 67, lol.

              • menajeanmaehightower

                65-67 is perfect.

                • camilleblu

                  With a fan and a blanket??? – GIRL! #heaven

          • menajeanmaehightower

            I’m ready to act a fool if i am hot in a house.

        • Lea Thrace

          Can I just be comfortable? Why do I have to pick extremes dang it! A nice lukewarm 70 deg with a light breeze and cloudless skies. Is that too much to ask for!

          • LMNOP

            I always feel like goldilocks. Yes, I will complain when it’s too cold. And when it’s too cold. I just want it to be just right.

          • b sweet

            I could go for that! Where can we get that year round, besides CA? I’m not feeling the west coast at all.

            • menajeanmaehightower

              Only the west coast has that mythical weather. CA to be exact.

              • b sweet

                Oh well. I’m doomed. Never say never, but I could not see myself living in Cali.

                • Lea Thrace

                  I’m with you. Cali is too far from my southern roots. Besides, I moved enough for a lifetime by the time I was the age of 12. Im staying here. Someone just needs to change to weather to suit MY needs.

              • kidvideo

                I move to Cali last week(from Alabama)…triple degrees are the norm. Still getting use to it.

                • menajeanmaehightower

                  Triple degrees in Cali? Which area?

                  • kidvideo

                    SoCal…

                • Val

                  That must be Southern California or inland. It’s almost always cool by the coast in Northern California. Eighty degrees around these parts is a heatwave of epic proportions. And, we barely have any humidity.

                  • kidvideo

                    SoCal…California City…100 miles from L.A.

      • Paradigm

        New slogan as I reminisce on my younger days — “No AC in the 803”

        • menajeanmaehightower

          They don’t know. They aint tryin to hear us.

    • camilleblu

      i have to take a hot shower even in extreme heat. i just have never been able to get used to a lukewarm or cold shower.

      • Epsilonicus

        I did some field work in TX and I did. We had these solar showers that were only hot the 1st 3 minutes of your shower.

        • camilleblu

          Wudda been a 3 minute shower then.

      • LMNOP

        I can do a lukewarm shower if I need to, but I’m not a fan. A COLD shower though? Its like the devil pouring ice cubes all over you, really makes you wonder if it’s that bad to just be dirty.

        • kidvideo

          How bout taking a cold shower outside in the heat?

  • I would of never expected a myvidster mention on vsb.ever.

  • Freebird

    Good read. And that s hit you wrote about being a better white person. Yes to all that yo.

  • NomadaNare

    Alex, humidity is not overrated. Moist atmosphere is amazing and every so often I miss that my skin doesn’t naturally glow in the Midwest as it does in the South.

    Anyway, your adventure sounds like the life and you got out around the age I am now. What prompted you to go? Was it a career move or were you looking for adventure?

    • camilleblu

      NN, where in the Midwest are you? – generally speaking if you don’t want to be specific.

      • NomadaNare

        Chicago. The weather is great during the summer, especially after a particularly heavy rain, but most of the time it’s regularly far colder than I would prefer. Don’t even get me started on the winters now that the polar vortex regularly drops down this way, there was a time last winter where O’Hare was literally the coldest place on earth due to natural causes.

        • camilleblu

          Ok, you’re in my part of the Midwest. . And yeah, Chicago is cold as all the fukcs on fukc street. I was there during last winter and I swear Gawd was punishing the city for its sins.

          • NomadaNare

            Are you in the Chi as well? I just moved in from Naperville (and before that from Detroit). I have no friends :(. Where are all the cool spots?

            • camilleblu

              Ah..close, but no cigar. I’m in Indy. But if you tell me how you like to kick it, I can make some suggestions. And I can’t believe that you have no friends NN.

              • NomadaNare

                I am a fan of kicking it in every way it can be kicked (besides with my foot). Whatever you think is fun would probably be fun. I have no friends in the city. I make it a habit of moving to places where I don’t know anyone.

                • camilleblu

                  Hmmmm….you can try Tonic on Friday nights. Jokes & Notes to get your giggle on. The M Lounge. Signature Lounge. Bevy. Las Vegas and Rumba or El Sitio if you want to get your Latin on. Also, Hash House A Go- Go has great breakfast.

          • Chris Streetz Poet Bright

            Am I the only black person that prefers winter over summer?

        • BreakingChains

          “Perpetual glistening” sounds much better than “the coldest place on earth”.

          • NomadaNare

            Don’t it though? Those sound like consecutive titles in an urban black lit series, BTW.

          • Val

            Or a phrase from a romance novel. Maybe Nomada is a writer?

            • NomadaNare

              If I told you I was, would you read what I wrote?

              • BreakingChains

                Absolutely.

              • Val

                I would!

        • Val

          Mane, Chicago is hot as heck in the summer. I do love Chicago winters though. I like the extreme cold. It allows for so many opportunities for coziness. :-)

          • LMNOP

            I see the Californian perfect weather is completely wasted on you, Val.

            • Val

              Yes, it is. It’s like a constant smile. Nice at first but then it becomes boring and somewhat annoying.

  • Medium Meech

    Nice piece.

    • camilleblu

      that’s what….*loses signal*

      • Medium Meech

        Oh real mature Camille. Women always have to take a conversation down that road.

        • LMNOP

          Right, lol, “women”

          • Medium Meech

            *Daps LMNOP. AmIrite?

            • camilleblu

              NOAP

              • Medium Meech

                Is that an acronym for something else dirty? Nose on A** Play? Nasal Oral Aural P… can never tell with you. Your mind needs orbitz.

                • camilleblu

                  Smh… You ain’t even a lil bit of shyt Meech.

                  • Medium Meech

                    N.O.A.P. (;

    • thank you :)

  • Shay-d-Lady

    this was hilarious.. and the last sentence reminds of mother’s sage words of wisdom.. “don’t let peer pressure get you f!C*ed up out here”. cause if you embarrass me.. peer pressure will force me to beat your a.$. $ LMAO

    • camilleblu

      i’m saying – i was just about to ask him to expound on this public shaming that he handed out, lol.

  • b sweet

    I’ve always wanted to give 10% of my life years to living abroad. This is making me want to pack up and move to Paris or St. Martin for a couple of years. I have a love/hate relationship with American ‘values’. I could use a break.
    And you’re totally right about the cold shower thing. Not as bad as you think.

    • Guest

      Sounds like you have a soft spot for French, I would recommend Guadeloupe.

      • AnotherGuest

        971!

  • LMNOP

    I want to move to Panama now.

    Also, I think one of the best things about the US is our giant azz grocery stores.

    • MissB

      Come on down girl, be our guest!, And yeah, we have giant grocery stores too, I even read yesterday that y’all North Americans are trying to bring a Wal-Mart to Panama, but ain’t nobody checking for that!

      • LMNOP

        Do you have over 200 distinct types of peanut butter, in your grocery stores though? I’m sure you have plenty of nice grocery stores and large grocery stores, but can you walk down every single aisle and find several items that you literally don’t even know what they are or why they exist? Also, do yall have despensa familiar in Panama? If so, its owned by wal-mart, if not, wal-mart is probably on its way already.

  • miss t-lee

    I’m used to humidity. I haven’t known a summer without it, if I ever did I’m guaranteed not to know how to act. Gold Bond and breathable fabrics are the move. Oh and multiple showers a day. We’ve just reached that time of the year here. 100% humidity ain’t no punk.
    That daytime “me time” is a beautiful thing.
    It’s no small thing how we’re forced to adapt when we absolutely have no other choice. I’ve been in similar situations before, (ie no hot water) and you can either fix it, or just deal, and most the time we’ll do just that.

    Thanks for giving us a peek into living abroad.

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