Sam Sam Sam

Sam wrote his last exam yesterday – he’s officially 40% done now (he is one course short of a full load, and will therefore be at UVic for 5 years, if everything else goes according to plan). I’m not sure how cool it is to brag about your kid’s academic achievements, but who cares – he got 98% in Math 204 (Calculus). I mean, 98%!!!! The amount of effort that went into that … I can’t really fathom it. He deserves skywriting, or a billboard or something, not just a line in my crappy blog. If you happen to read this, Sam, from the deepest depths of my soul, I’m so proud of you; Congratulations!

… and he started his first shift at Schwartz Bay this morning at 5 AM, training. I wasn’t actually 100% aware that he was capable of getting up at 5 AM. As I may or may not have mentioned, he’s a Terminal Attendant this time. Those are the guys in safety vests who direct traffic and such. Before, he was selling tickets. It’s great that he’s learning more about the ferry system, which he seems to love even more than math!

Yubal 2

I guess I should say something about the Spanish class, after all, that’s why I’m here.

On a positive note, I just love the prof, the material is good, and everything is well organized. We’re talking about one of the classic relatively-advanced Spanish topics, namely, ‘verbos de cambio’. In English terms, this is about why we say ‘she TURNED red’, ‘he BECAME ill’, ‘he was LEFT paralyzed’, etc. There is a ton, a TON of subtlety in here and the best someone like me can hope for is to understand it when I hear it and shoot for 50% accuracy when I’m saying it.

On a negative note, I have some … reservations about my classmates. There are two of them, girls (I think it’s OK to call them girls) from Bahamas and in their defence, they are here for SIX MONTHS, which is not that unusual but is probably enough to bring out the less-good in anybody from time to time. Well, I’m not here to make friends and it will almost certainly be different next week, and on balance, the class is great. So I’m not going to worry too much about this.


When I got home last night, CNN’s top story was Trump’s anti-Canada softwood lumber thing; the headline was ‘temor de guerra commercial’ = fear of a trade war, and they had a Spanish guy in downtown Toronto talking about it.

CNN always shows the time in Bogotá and Buenos Aires, perhaps implying that these are their two most important cities in Latin America, although Lima is slightly bigger than both of them; Sao Paolo is #1 by a huge margin, but it doesn’t figure in the CNN Spanish system.

Here are a few pictures from my early morning constitutional; nothing earth-shattering I’m afraid. No offense taken if you think they’re boring 😉

There must have been 50+ of these critters outside the bank, which is strange because I have only seen a couple of them elsewhere. In any case, my tolerance for bugs and such is about 500x what it was 20 years ago, and while I wouldn’t necessarily want these crawling all over me, they don’t bother me. A smaller version with wings was flying around the house last night while we were watching CNN. In this particular picture I’m puzzled why most of these guys were on their back. I’m not sure how they get that way other than by falling or being flipped by a human.

I walked up into the hills for 1/2 hour or so and caught this view over the town. There are lots of houses in the hills and I can’t be sure but I think many of them belong to affluent by Panama standards / normal by our standards Americans and perhaps a few Canadians and Europeans.

This is a condo project, there is one other one underway on the main drag but none that are complete that I know of. I assume these are targeted towards slightly-lower-middle-class Americans, and I wonder if they are the seeds of future resentment. As far as I know, everyone gets along well here, perhaps other than those “Indians in the hills”.



I spotted a story on Reddit about a woman who hit a kid on a bike, the kid died, and the woman (the driver) sued the kid’s family for emotional stress caused by her having to deal with his death.

At first this seems like a classic ‘OMG how can our system be that screwed up’ story, and, I would certainly not rush to the defense of someone trying to cash in on an accident, regardless of fault.


When I read the details, it appears that:

1. The kid was riding with his friend double-file on a dark road a 1:30 AM with no lights or helmet;

2. The kid’s family sued the driver first. Hers was a counter-suit.

Who knows who really deserves to be sued. But it’s interesting how often and how easy it is to reframe what seems like an open-and-shut story.


This is the one and only apartment-type building that I have spotted here, on the edge of town (the town is maybe 4 blocks wide by 10 blocks long, in Canadian terms). I’m pretty sure if I went into those trees, it would be about as safe (in terms of dangerous animals and insects) as at home. Actually, malaria used to be a major problem here, but the Americans seem to have done a good job of eradicating it as part of the original canal project and I was advised to not worry about taking malaria medicine (which is of dubious value anyway).

Not a big deal but these gaping sidewalk holes are common and I can’t help but thinking that in Canada this would be surrounded by cones, tape, construction-worker-guards in orange vests and lawyers poised to sue somebody.

This is a wider view of “my” house, which is the closest fully visible one with the orange iron fence. One of the things I worry about a little is dogs, which are everywhere, but so far no issues and I haven’t even heard much barking. They just wander around all over. Taffy would be so not comfortable here!


First day of classes is over (4 hours 1:00 to 5:00). My professor (they call them professors here, even in high school) is named Yubal, and he has an awesome speaking voice (meaning, I can understand 99% of what he’s saying), and a great sense of humor. He’s also extremely gay, but being a progressive Canadian, of course I have no problem with that ;).

The material was very solid, about 50% ser/estar (this is one of the top-10 problems for Spanish learners; basically, they have two verbs for our single ‘to be’, if someone ‘es’ sick it means they are a chronically sickly person and if they ‘está’ sick it means they are a healthy person who happens to be sick today; there are tons of subtleties, though) and the other 50% idiomatic expressions (eg. instead of ‘they are like peas in a pod’ they say ‘they are like fingernail and flesh’).

The truth is I have a few concerns but overall I am feeling pretty good at the moment and worst-case I can switch to one of the other schools if I want to, at minimal cost. For now I’m giving everything the benefit of the doubt and my main concern is filling up the weekend. I’m tentatively expecting to go white-watering on Saturday and ATV’ing on Sunday, however, both of these are likely to be very anglocentric so If I can find something less so, I’ll do that instead.

The TV news here seems to come from the US mostly and so far it seems very focussed on Venezuela and France. Interestingly, I have come across almost zero direct references to Trump. Overall I’m pleased with how well I can understand it (real TV) now, though, it really depends and sometimes it seems easy, other times nearly impossible.


I got to wondering if Colombia the country has an etymological link to British Columbia the awesome province, the university, etc. Confirmed (insofar as the Internet is reliable): YES, they all derive from Christopher Columbus. Colombia is just the Spanish variant. Interestingly enough, in Spanish he is referred to as ‘Cristobal Colon’, so I’m not sure what happened there. My long-suffering mother is probably shocked that this factoid was ever in doubt in the mind of her ever-shockingly-bereft-of-common-knowledge last born!