The Sounds of Panama – From An Expat Experience
In October 2017 after arriving in Panama City to begin the next chapter of our lives, I witnessed the annual migration of birds across the city from a hotel rooftop. The skies darkened as they passed and the Audubon Society news later confirmed nearly a million migratory birds passed over Panama on the 31st.
The slightly intimidating sight was also an auditory experience. As a new migrant, this was early confirmation our new life would be different.
From the city to Coronado, the beach lifestyle in one of the most popular expat communities has introduced a whole new world and in the peace, sound is a significant part.
From sunrise coffee in the bohio, the stillness of the morning fills with bird calls as they begin their new day. Hummingbirds whir from blossom to blossom taking nourishment from the gardens. Grackles squawk as they plot stealing food from the dogs dish. Woodpeckers peck away in the high branches. Occasionally, especially during migration season, the migratory birds will stop by for a treat from the noni or mango trees as they pass causing a panic among the nesting species and the levels of squawking and screeching is deafening.
Geckos, our inevitable bug eating guests, chirping sound announces it is hard at work keeping tiny pests at bay. The fifty species of frogs in Panama serenade with a wide variety of peeps, ribits, barks, clucks, chirps and grunts begin as the sun sets and continue through the night.
In the early morning and late evening, the ocean and tides are audible even a kilometer inland. The waves along the surrounding beaches cadence soothes.
In rainy season, mighty downpours on a tin roof, the higher and bigger the better – El Rey, our local grocery store, is one of my favorite places to be, the sound echoes in the high ceiling.
It seems nature is closer here. An explosive crack of lighting can lift you from your seat. Rumbling thunder rolling across the water carries the sound inland.
Not all sounds are natural. Gardeners begin their days early and gas powered trimmers commence just after sunrise. If you are lucky, this won’t be a daily occurrence. Just as we got used to sirens, helicopters and car alarms blaring day and night in our previous life, even these sounds blend into the background after a while.
Another big part of life here is music. Play music to work out, swim, garden, paint, party and almost every outdoor activity blends with the rhythm and beat. Weekends often bring city people and they are here to celebrate, traditional Panamanian, reggaeton and more can blare from outdoor speakers until morning. The last November holidays featured singing, loud and sometimes in tune, to whatever was playing.
Panamanians love to celebrate with fireworks and don’t need an occasion to set them ablaze, often not even waiting until dark. All throughout the year, explosions are audible can even if out of your line of vision.
The most spectacular display is on New Years Eve so find a rooftop, balcony or out on the water, grab a cool one, sit back and enjoy the spectacle. As 2019 was rung in, fireworks continued until 3:00 a.m. and it was an amazing experience meriting repeat every year.
The most impressive sound in the beaches is silence. Coming from a bustling, never sleeping city, the silence is precious. At times, the hum of the electricity is the only sound. Revel in the peacefulness and appreciate the wonders of this lifestyle.
The natural and man made sounds may not be original to Coronado or even Panama but the combination of all of the above is there for you to take a moment to appreciate and enjoy.