February 15, 2023
This was NOT a Good Way to Wake Up!
Recently I was hurled into wakefulness when a chainsaw revved up next to my ear.
Now, to be fair, it wasn’t exactly next to my ear. It was on the adjoining property, which, in this country of no zoning and no setback requirements, is about 4 inches away from my bedroom window, which is about 2 feet away from my ear.
But when you’re jolted out of a sound sleep, these are minor quibbles.
So, I was awoken about an hour before my usual time, by a loud machine. And you’ve got to understand that, during the pandemic lockdown, I was traumatized by similar machine noises happening all day, every day, outside my office window and I couldn’t get away from them because, you know, lockdown. No escaping to the coffee shop, or the library, or anywhere.
Woken up, loud machine, trauma. I fumbled around for my noise canceling headphones and slapped them on. Then I did what we all do when we first wake up. I stumbled to the bathroom, with chainsaw noises continuing but thankfully muffled by the headphones.
And them — WHAM! on the roof directly over my head, followed by 7 or 8 loud thumps as heavy objects hit the roof and rolled down.
I was sitting there wondering if I could get out before the roof, and whatever had smashed down on it, came crashing down on me. I couldn’t fight, I would cheerfully have opted for flight, but I was stuck in freeze. Heart pounding. Palms sweating.
The chainsaw shut down, and I whipped off the headphones in time to hear my landlady at my Panamanian paradise by the sea, voice raised, yelling es mi casa (that’s my house). I assumed she was hollering at the chainsaw-wielding maniac, especially when I heard male voices in response. Quickly I fumbled on some clothes and went out.
It seems these guys had been hired to cut down a tall palm tree next to the property line. Did they cut from the top? No. Did they attach ropes or do anything at all to guide the fall of this healthy tree, which they hacked off at the base? No.
They just grabbed the chainsaw and waded in. Welcome to Panama.
Fortunately, the roof didn’t cave in, and the next-door property owner was almost as appalled as we were.
I ended up getting no writing done that day at all. Even after my palms stopped sweating and my heart rate went back to normal, I felt jittery and anxious, sensations I’m not terribly familiar with (thank goodness). I couldn’t think straight. In fact, I didn’t start feeling like myself again until after dinner that evening.
Most days here my transition from sleeping to waking is much pleasanter. After waking when I’m ready (no reason to set an alarm), I huddle on some clothes and go out onto the porch facing the ocean where I do my stretching exercises and enjoy the invigorating sea breeze and the sound of the waves in my ears. That’s a much better way to start the day!
There are a lot of things I love about Panama, but noise is not one of them. In fact, it doesn’t even make the Top Ten list. And it’s a noisy culture. They play their music loud, they have loud parties, and since life is pretty much lived outside, they share it with everyone.
Here where I’m staying, by the beach on the Azuero Peninsula, it’s usually quiet. Emphasis on usually.
if noise is an issue for you, you can still live happily in Panama, you just need to be much more deliberate about where you choose to settle. And plan to invest in a set of good quality noise-canceling headphones.
Tips & Tools
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I’ve been unemployable for a long time. Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger, Further, and the Unemployable Community, has been unemployable for a long time. Many of my friends are fellow unemployables.
As Tim Denning points out, being unemployable doesn’t mean you go to a tropical island and become a beach bum.
“If you think that you’re high on 4-Hour Workweek kool-aid,” he says.
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In Case You Missed It. . .
Last time I visited Panama, in 2019, I found myself on this big yellow bus.
Despite previously living in Las Tablas, Panama for several years, I recently found myself on a Panama Relocation Tour.
In late January, I flew to Panama because I decided I didn’t want to deal with winter this year.
I survived my arrival during the Papal visit and the World Youth Conference, and settled in at my home away from home in Guarare.
I spent a couple of weeks enjoying the sun and the ocean (and wallowing in Vacation Brain, truth be told). On the 10th I met up with Jackie Lange and the bus in Chitre.