Day Six: A Character-Building Experience
Today’s Prompt: Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?
Our stories are inevitably linked to the people around us. We are social creatures: from the family members and friends who’ve known us since childhood, to the coworkers, service providers, and strangers who populate our world (and, at times, leave an unexpected mark on us).
Today, write a post focusing on one — or more — of the people that have recently entered your life, and tell us how your narratives intersected. It can be your new partner, your newborn child, or the friendly barista whose real story you’d love to learn (or imagine), or any other person you’ve met for the first time in the past year.
In this last year I’ve been deeply touched by so many of my new neighbors here in this small town in Panama. You see even though I’ve been living in Bouqete for nearly two years, I’m still a newcomer. So many things about living in a different country have required a bit of adjustment. For me, being amongst so many warm, welcoming people has made my ability to adjust just a little bit easier.
This past year I’ve really gotten to know our eight Panamanian employees who are working on building our house with my husband. Six days a week I drive down into town to pick them up in the morning and then at the end of the day I drive them back down again. I must say the one thing that stands out for me during that 10 minute ride in my car twice a day, is the incredible sense of humor they all have. The camaraderie between them is a hoot to witness. They laugh and make jokes and call each other “crazy women” (Loca) and poke fun at one another all the time. All in good fun, of course. It seems as if they switch around to a different guy each day as they gang up on someone new. No one seems to escape the harassment that they dish out to one another. As we’re driving in my car, whenever one guy makes some remark that’s funny or snarky they all, in unison do this kinda singsong… “Ayyyyyyye” …its hard to describe in the written word, but hilarious in the car. Or Javier says, “Totalamente!” With a grin as they all nod their heads in agreement to whatever was said.
When I have those 6 guys in the car with me and Javier (he seems to be the ringleader!) says something, obviously meant to be a joke , and all six men in unison say…”Ayyyyyyyyyye”… the laughter breaks out all around and I smile. I just love the feeling of pleasure it seems these guys get everyday harassing each other on their way to work. They seem to smile a lot and always find something to say to make each other laugh. I’ve tried to join in the fun by calling the last guy to arrive in the morning, “Princesa” because we’ve had to wait for whoever’s late…that gets a big laugh! And recently, when they were all coming down with a cold, one by one… I told them they needed to stop kissing each other so much! “Tu necesitas no mas Besitos!” Boy did that get a big “Ayyyyyyyye”! And laughs, and coughs and a few sniff sniffs! hah!
Before we moved into our casita I hardly ever got to really interact with our crew, but now I’m around everyday and have even been honored with a title…”La Jefa”! Yep! I’m the Boss! hah! You know I love that! Right??? I love the way they sort of look out for me whenever they’re around. If they see me trying to carry something heavy to the car they drop what they’re doing and run to help me. If I come home with bags of groceries and they’re nearby, it never fails, I’ll turn around and see that I have a helper! I just love being so pampered and respected. I understand this is just a sample of one aspect of Latin Culture, respect for women, well especially ‘older’ women…which, ahem..I guess I am! Humph! Well, I love the pampering! And…I’ll take it with pleasure!
I don’t really know for sure but I like to think that Scott and I are providing these eight men with a good job. A job where they feel respected and appreciated. I feel like we’ve had such a wonderful experience gathering a group of men that seem like they actually enjoy working together and get along so well. I also feel like there’s a mutual respect that goes between Scott and the entire crew of men. I have no idea what types of jobs they’ve had in the past but I really hope that as employers we’ve treated them well and that they’ll look back years from now and remember us and our job fondly. If its possible to think of employers in such a way…hah!
One other thing that I’ve enjoyed is having a mix of both Panamanians and Indigenous men working side by side. I’ve gotten to see how they interact with one another and to learn from my observations that at least our crew seem to offer one another equal amounts of respect. The three indigenous guys have learned a lot from Scott. Before working with Scott Federico had only ever been a machete guy. He had zero construction experience and we’ve watched him really pay attention and learn so much. Even just using a measure tape is a new skill that he never had before. Scott is a very patient teacher and mentor and has such a gentle, calm spirit I think they all look up to him and respect him greatly. At least from my observation of him when I see them all working together they seem to really want to please him and work hard.
I’ve learned so much from them and I don’t have enough clarity in my level of communication yet to be able to express to them how much I’ve enjoyed having them around everyday. They know I’m trying hard to learn Spanish and they often ask me if I understand something they’ve said, if I say no, then all of them try to help me. I have so many teachers! It’s just great! I think of what it will be like when we finally finish this project. I’ll miss them so much. Ricardo, Javier, Daniel, Richard, Carlos, Federico, Arquiles, and Martin , each of them. We’ll most certainly treat them to a big fiesta when all this hard work is finally completed. And I know from now on, when we see any of them around town it will be with a warm heart and a big smile that I will greet them. But for now I look forward to seeing them everyday and to hearing their laughter. There’s nothing more endearing to me these days then the smiling faces I see when I look in my rear view mirror at all those happy Panamanian men in the car with me. I’m a lucky girl indeed!