How to say hello

Every culture in the world has a traditional way of greeting each other. This tends to vary across social groups and often even across ages. For example, a group of teenagers in the USA will probably say “hey” or “what’s up” rather than the more formal “hello.” But if I were listening in on one of my grandmother’s conversations with a friend of hers I’d be far more likely to hear her say “hi.” I wouldn’t go into a job interview and say “hey, how’s it going?”  but  I would say “hello, how are you?” The way we use language is important to us. It shows our relationships between one another. So here’s 5 ways to say “hello” here in Panama.

1) Hola– Tried and true–This literally translates to “hello” and can be used in formal and informal settings. 

2) Buenas– This is a shortened version of “buenas noches/buenos días” but it is always used with an -as ending no matter what time of day it is. It’s my favorite greeting and I say it to everybody. 

3- ¿Que tal?– How’s it going? A solid informal greeting used among friends and acquaintances. 

4- ¿Que sopa?– This is a slang-ified version of “que paso” which means “what’s up?” You hear this more among younger generations and it’s informal. Don’t use it in a professional setting

5- Ow!– This is more of a sound than a word. It’s just a way to acknowledge someone and shout “hey!” Again, totally informal

See? Learning Spanish isn’t so hard. And don’t worry, if you get confused, a smile goes a long way. 

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Meri

As of 2013 there were 3.864 million people living in Panama. Indigenous people make up about 5% of the population. Despite Panama’s small size it has a wide variety of indigenous groups and all of them have their own language and culture. While you can find, indigenous people living in any part of Panama there are higher concentrations of indigenous groups in the various comarca’s.  My friend Nicole works with indigenous Ngöbe/Ngäbe women in her community. She wrote the following poem while at a biodiversity seminar with her counterpart. She looked around at her counterpart and all of the other Ngöbe women there and was impressed by how they had all stepped out of their comfort zone to attend the seminar. Not only that but they all made eye-contact with one another—something that’s not super common in that culture. Nicole wrote the poem below about her experience:

Meri

I see you over there.

You, yes you.

But this isn’t about me.

Yes, this is about you.

You, with the curious eyes.

The curiously floating eyes.

Have you met her?

Curiosity, she’s a character?

She’s a part of your spirit.

I met her.

Actually, I met her in you.

But this isn’t about me.

Yes, this is about you.

You, with the strength of your own arms

The strength of 1,000 arms.

Have you kissed her?

Strength, she is so damn seductive.

She is a part of what you do.

I kissed her.

Actually, I kissed her in you.

But this isn’t about me.

Yes, this is about you.

You, with the persistence of 2 feet

Those 2, persistent feet.

Have you become one with her?

Persistence, she is your deep satisfaction.

She is a part of how you love.

I became one with her.

Actually, I became one with her through you.

But this isn’t about me.

Yes, oh meri, yes.

This is indeed about you.

You are the fire

The raging, enveloping fire.

That knows not its own burn.

But I hope you see

I hope you see I see

(Even though it’s not about me)

I see you over there.

Maybe I can’t really see

Maybe I can only feel.

I can only feel your fire.

Your fire, fire that burns me

So even if, despite the fact

This is not about me.

I will sit in your flames.

Because I met her, kissed her

And I became one with her

All in your flames.

All in your raging enveloping fire

I’ll sit here until you know

Until you fully understand

How incredibly powerful you burn.

I’ll stay right here

Because it is your fire

It is your flames

It is her

That awakens my own

(So I guess this is about us.)

Nicole(right) and one of the Ngöbe women in her site wearing Nagwa’s; the traditional dress


 

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From Field to Fumes: How Cigars are Made

If you’ve been following this blog from the beginning you’re well aware that there is a cigar factory in my community. Factory may be a little overzealous a word though; I’ve only ever seen one person working despite the many workstations. After my many visits, I finally decided to ask Miriam, the owner, a little more about the process of cigar making. It’s a fairly simple process to make the Joya de Panama (jewel of Panama) cigars—and the whole process takes place right here in the country.

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Miriam showing off the cigars (photo cred to Mollie)

Step 1: Tobacco is shipped from San Diego, Chiriquí to La Pintada, Coclé

Step 2: The tobacco leaves are dried (this can take up to 2 months!)

Step 3: The tobacco that will be used to fill the cigars is ground down

Step 4: The loose tobacco is hand-rolled in a tobacco leaf and sealed

Step 5: The newly formed cigar is put into a metal frame to cut the ends

Step 6: 10 cigars at a time are placed into molds which are pressed down

Step 7: Cigars are packaged and ready to be sold!

Seeing Julián make cigars was awesome. He works so quickly and so precisely! He told me he can usually make about 300 cigars in a day which absolutely blows my mind since each one is completely hand made. Miriam taught him the process—she’s been in this business her entire life and now just manages everything. From start to finish the process takes about 7 months. Most of that time seems to be transit and waiting for leaves to dry out. Smoking isn’t very popular in Panama—most people are often surprised to learn that there is a cigar factory in my community. For Miriam, it’s a source of pride. She knows that she does it well and that’s what matters to her. For me, it’s an opportunity to learn about something I never would have sought out on my own. While I don’t intend to start smoking any time soon I do appreciate the art that goes into the process. So, if you ever want to light one up and support a sustainable business—come on down to Panama! ¡Nos esperamos!

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