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.