Unfortunately despite some valiant efforts on our part, our Spanish practice has somewhat stagnated in the last few weeks and it goes without saying, we still need that practice! In Costa Rica, with its highly US focused tourist industry, it was hardly surprising to find that English was incredibly widely spoken – not pigeon English but pretty much perfect English which made it just that little bit too easy to revert all too frequently to our Mother Tongue.
In Panama there are more opportunities to practise our Spanish again, even in the international capital. However, our first stop in this country was in the islands of Bocas del Toro, home to another large Garifuna population (like Roatan Island in Honduras and also Livingstone in Guatemala): everyone in these communities seems to be completely bilingual although you often get a blended mix e.g. “hola chica, what are you looking for?” almost sung to you in a strong lilting Caribbean accent.
It’s also interesting noting the regional differences. In Honduras we got used to being greeted with a hearty “Buenas” rather than “Buenas dias” in the morning or “Buenas tardes” in the afternoon. It seemed somewhat more economical and meant you didn’t have to worry about exactly what time of day it was so I quite liked that (less room to make mistakes!).
Here in Panama, they seem to go one stage further and I’m now hearing either “Buenas dia” or even “Buena” as here they regularly seem to drop the final “s”, not just on greetings but on lots of words, e.g. when negotiating taxi fares or other prices, we’re often hearing “sei” rather than “seis” (six). Mind you, it gives me a little more confidence: if they aren’t that bothered about the final “s” on their words, then hopefully they won’t be too bothered about and kindly forgive my (sadly often incorrect) verb conjugations!