Language Hiccups in Panama. I am Hot or Oh baby I am so Hot!

I had anxiously awaited my first trip to Panama tonosi-pedasi-ojo-de-agua
to visit my son. In preparation I had found a spanish language learning site online and grasped a few words. A friend had given me a language dictionary that was literally printed on a fan. When you opened it up, on one side was Spanish and the other side English. It fit nicely in my purse and went everywhere I went in Panama.

My first night in Panama we stayed in a beautiful hostel named the Golden Frog Inn in the mountains of El Valle. My son Charlie is friends with the owners and decided to show me this beautiful mountain town, just a short drive from Panama City

After a day in El Valle, I indicated that I would like to move on to the Azuero Peninsula where Charlie spends most of his time. My motherly instincts were to share as much as possible of his everyday life with him while I was there. We packed up and hit the road for Pedasi where he had booked a lovely room for me at Dim’s Hostel.

I had arrived during the rainy season. On our first day at Charlie’s development in Ojo de Agua I was amazed at the fertile lush green beauty of the mountains and the view of the Pacific ocean. The sticky, muddy ground was not such a big deal for me. However, Charlie informed me that I was definitely going to need some rubber boots to trek around in, so off we went to a small cattle and agricultural town called Tonosi to buy boots.

This was several years ago and at that time only a handful of Americans were living in the area. Putting it in perspective, we Americans were still an interesting phenomena to the lovely people in this “off the beaten path town” located in the heart of rural Panama.

Being the humid rainy season, of course it was very hot and most businesses do not have air conditioning, so I was constantly saying, I am hot!  Charlie spoke fluent Spanish and had been living in Panama for 3 years at the time. He knew their dialect well. As we were (me mostly) entertaining the Panamanians shopping for my boots and after I had stated at least ten times in the Melo store, “I am hot”, we finally made it to the counter to pay. There standing around the counter was the young man that had helped me with my boot selection, a few Panamanian cowboys and behind the counter the lady that actually took my money. Again, I am repeatedly stating how hot I am and then it dawned on me that I had my handy little dictionary in my purse and may as well state my case in Spanish. Out of my purse pops my fan and I quickly fanned it open and went to the English side for the word hot. I will never forget how I felt at that moment as short, sweating, overweight me stood there next to my tall, handsome son. I was going to speak my first Spanish sentence in Panama and impress my son and the sales staff in the hardware store. And then it came from my lips for all to hear, “Soy caliente” as I stood there vigorously fanning my dictionary fan. Immediately the three guys faces lit up with big smiles (but I did notice the lady had sort of a scowl on hers) and my tall, sweet and ever thoughtful son shushed me. Of course, I repeated it again and was promptly shushed again. The guys were grinning and the lady was scowling. I am fanning away and wondering why in the world Charlie is shushing me of all things. He said, Mom hush!!! I said, “Why?” “I am just saying I am hot in Spanish.” He says, “No you are not”. I promptly replied, “Yes I am, because the dictionary says right here hot is caliente.” Again he told me to hush and he would explain when we got in the car, which he did. He informed me that in Panama caliente does mean hot, but a different kind of hot. In short I was proudly proclaiming to the entire store –  “I am horny, I am horny.” “Soy caliente, soy caliente.”  Oops!!!!

Of course, I laughed after having to say some not so nice things about language dictionaries.

We left the Melo store and went to visit a retired married couple (friends of Charlie’s) living in Tonosi and of course I had to reiterate my hot story. The wife says, “no wonder I am getting all those wolf whistles from the guys as I walk in front of the bar, sweating on my way to the store and telling them how caliente (hot) I am.”

Just like in english, in spanish there is “I am hot” and then there’s “Oh baby I am sooo HOT!  

Make sure you know the difference!

~Barbara