Posted by: kateinpanama | December 14, 2009

Baile de Penguinos- Dance of the Penguins

There are 2 parts of Panamanian Culture that after living here for over a year I still struggle to understand:

  1. Girls with AMAZING bodies but the manner in which they dress does not flatter their bodies.

There are girls that do not appear to even have an ounce of body fat on them..however they  wear clothing that is clearly 2 sizes too small for them thus creating muffin tops and fat rolls.  They are seeming to enjoy creating the illusion that they have fat rolls.. ok the tight jeans might make you butt look very nice but the roll of fat sticking out from the top of the waistband counteracts this… same with t-shirts.. a tight shirt might accentuate your bust but the combined effect of the muffin top and fat roll from the tight shirt slightly counteracts your big bust. No amount of sequins will cover up the fact your clothing is clearly too small! Perhaps I should start at NGO based on teaching Panamanians how to dress for their body type.  I think the first lesson would be about how to know if clothing fits.. I swear Tim Gunn would have 8 seasons of shows in Panama .

2. Driving Etiquette- YES it is only me on the road

I  think most Panamanian drivers think that they are self important and you are just getting in their way.  A driver will be the first to honk at you because you do not move fast enough when the light changes to green or chose to not cut off a care to make a turn.. but they will have no issues with running a light or turning a driving lane into their own personal parking spot.  However  they feel it ok to stop an entire lane of traffic because they have put on their flashers and that everyone should wait for them to run into the store to buy a coke or a newspaper.

 Dance of the Penguins

A few weeks ago I had an awesome opportunity to attend a Baile out in the rural parts of Panama. If you have read my blog for some time you will realize that I am not a big fan of City Panaimians as they seem to be the worse offenders of the rude and selfishness that annoys me about Panama. However I LOVE LOVE LOVE rural Panaimains! They are very gracious, kind, and I have never met one that I have not liked! So whenever I get the opportunity to go chill outside the city I of course take advantage of it! 

One of my Jungle Girls villages was having a Baile, Dance party in the compote( term used to describe rural Panama) in order for her community to raise money. A Baile is characterized by a  type of music called Tipico. To try and put Tipicio in my best Gringo terms it is like an accordion mixed with yodeling with the songs lasting for roughly 15 minutes. One of my Jungle friends put it the best when trying to describe to me how you dance to it: Imagine 2 penguins dancing together… you just kinda waddling along as the guy leads you.

Of course as in any adventure in Panama.. half the adventure is getting there! The Baile was being held in a community that only had River Access which means you had to take a canoe. Upon arrival at the port there was a sea of people all trying to get into the same free boat. Simple calculation reveled that unless this canoe had an underwater deck I was not aware of, not everyone was going to get into the boat.  Luckily another partygoer had the brilliant idea to charter a canoe.. yes you can charter a canoe for the cost of $1 per person.  As the canoe started up river I wondered if I should be concerned that the boat captain was drinking Seco ( Cheap Panama Liquor) straight from the bottle….after 1.5 hours and 3 bathroom breaks for the guys ( please note: GUYS) we finally ended up at the community.

Upon arriving at the community I put on my brand new Indian Skirt that had just been released from the Indian Skirt MegaStore ( a room in a basement where the indigenous Indians can buy fabric). As this community is so far up river they normally do not get many gringos who join in for the party. Suffice to say the Jungle Girls and I caused some excitement. The band of yodelers even thanked the Gringa Tourists for coming to the Party. 

Essentially the BAile works like this.. the guys pick a girl to dance with for the duration of the song which last about 15 minutes. Once you start dancing with a guy you have to finish the song with him. The Bailes make money because the guys have to pay to dance. After they have paid a piece of paper normally of the bright color variety will be stapled to their shirt collar. So you waddle around like a penguin for 15 minutes … or in my case because I do not like letting guys lead .. he tries to make me waddle like a penguin but I chose to spin or try to do tango moves.  Once the dance has ended you go to bar and get a $.50 beer…. However if you are female you have to chug your beer because before you can even get the beer opened a guy is pulling you on to the dance floor. Or you have to pose and take pictures with people because a Gringa at a Baile is an attraction that does not happen all that often.

The accordion and yodeling lasted until the sun came up and the roosters crowing. At this time those that had made it through the evening refused to go to bed until all the beer had been consumed…. The ground was littered with not only beers can but also those people that partied until they passed out. Since this party was up in the Jungle and most people came by boat people chose to sleep wherever they wanted…. Tree stump, next to a fence, on the beach, etc

The Baile was definitely one of the better nights of partying that I have had in Panama because it was so different from what I was used to. There is another Baile in a few weeks that I have plans to attend as well.. perhaps I will go back to the Indian Fabric Megastore and get a new skirt!

Adventures in Product Placement

Rice- Perhaps next to the beans or maybe even soup…. Nope right next to the dog food

Refried Beans… with the other beans…. Wrong again with Potato Chips

Decorative Paper Plates….with the other paper plates…. How about next to the meat counter

Bed Pillows…not sure why they would sell bed pillows at the grocery store but if you are need of one you can find them across from the refrigerator with the chicken.


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