Archive for December, 2009

CHRISTMAS BEHIND BARS!!!

Posted in 1 on December 29, 2009 by doingtimeabroad

Tuesday, 22nd of December 2009, three days before Christmas, in between my sleep, the sound of the Christmas music playing outside kept me up until the early hours. The Galleria has been transformed with decorations and music for this time of the year. The atmosphere is charged with Christmas. Most inmates are getting gifts and new stuffs from their families and friends. Well, most of us, foreigners without families around have to do without. But still, the most still believe we are better of, they still hold to the belief that we have money and well to do than them. They don`t know how much most of will trade places to have visit from our loved ones every week with fresh food and fruits. Up and about with my daily chores, to library and not so much to do, the queue for the 3 PC`s are like ones you see on liquidation shops.

Another one bite the dust, five new guys were brought in, one happen to be from my part of the world. Nice guy, was bit nervous, but can get along as he speaks Spanish. I guess he is more experience with life in prison, as he got use to most things on his second day in the centre. The day went by so fast and my debts are growing, waiting for my dough to pay up my debts before these guys fall on me.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009, Woke up to find out one of my mate was gone, wondered where he went to, when he finally came back, told me the girl that was with him in his case, has been making changes and dropped her lawyer. Guess she doesn`t know, by doing that, she is just prolonging her case, she may end up waiting up to two years before going to court. On 25th and on Christmas day, I will be three Months old in the system, within this period of time; I have come to understand how the judiciary system works in Panama and most Latin American countries. Try and get your statement taken and hope you go to court on time, and get your sentence. If your country has treaty with Panama, then you can start working on the repatriation back to your home country.  But once the process takes time, then one is bound to spend years waiting and appealing. And I have learned that the Lawyers are vicious animals, waiting mostly for unfortunate foreigners like us to hire them and pay exorbitant amount of money.

The Church, brought in some food for the centre and I guess everyone has a bite of it… was nice, enjoyed the prayers and songs.

The Panamanians, who has served most of their time will be going home for Christmas on 24th and be back on 25th evening, many are getting ready for it and also asking for money from us foreigners as most will go to empty homes or to girlfriends who still believe in whatever stories they have been told; that they are making some good deals in jail and saving some money.

In Panama, anything goes as written in the Tailor of Panama; A Spaniard, whom we seldom speak, told me he will be going home in 21 days after serving about 34 Months in Panama. And he will be going with his wife, was surprised. I asked him if his wife was locked up as well in the Feminino (Women`s Prison), he said no, that he is wife is his Lawyer. Hummm!!! What a trendy way to meet a future husband or wife. Did my little digging and found out that some female lawyers are so crazy about The Europeans here; they choose to represent you and eventually fall in love, hope to get Married and move out with you when you leave the system.

Lock up time, Call from my schat, had to round up on time as I have to shower. My second shower, which has become daily routine; with high and humid temperature, one is forced to shower as much as you can. And we had a nice dinner. Beginning to like CSI (Miami and New York), but bloody in Spanish, though it helps my Spanish. Watch a nice film before hitting bed with my Book; Redemption, want to finish it on time.

Thursday, 24 December 2009 woke up from the sound of the breakfast guy, difficult to hold on to second of sleep when he comes in the hall, Picked up something for us. And back to bed, but couldn`t sleep again, had to do some washing. Got a miss call from Schat and text, she`s up and about shopping for the kids, had to give a miss call, she rang back and we talked a bit before she went back to her shopping. If she had gone with the kids, she wouldn`t have been able to her shopping. The Gamboa; American church came and we had a nice Christmas service with some snacks. Had my grocery in today, Jesus`s Mum has been a blessing to most of us foreigners, she pick up our money and do the shopping for us with any charge, no like the guys in the centre, they help you pick your money and ripped you of every cents, buy things without receipt. I guess having her son in the centre and being a mother is one instinct that made her what and who she is. She knows that we have no one to do anything for us. Thank God for her.

The Camera crew from one of the TV Station came and did some filming in the Centre, the place is getting full, more than 600 Inmates now. Many inmates went home today for the xmas celebration, to be back on 25th evening, many couldn`t hide the joy of going home to their loved ones, something we the foreigners will pay to have, but we can never get that, as many will abscond, guess they know that. The 2 new guys in my cell left, what a nice feeling. They just got in; one transferred from the States after 4 years to complete his time and the other has done 2 years plus in Panama. Xmas eve, well, we had our own way for celebrated, my mate arranged a litre of rum, which we all sipped and spend the rest of the night watching movies and talking about what we would have been doing if we were outside by this time of the year.

Most time, I would have been with friends partying or having a drink somewhere in London, but being here made me realise that the best thing do and the place to be at a time like this is with the ones who cares and love me and that is my family. How I miss them now, talking to them today`s evening and making them believe that Santa will be coming over the night and will drop their gifts under the tree, when they wake up, they will find it there. My boy told me he has been a good lad and deserves his gift.

Couldn`t hold the liquor in mind, a little knocked my off, it`s been 3 months since I had one, and the bit I had was too strong for me. Hit my bed with a silent prayer.

Christmas Day 2009, been up several times to use the toilet, and finally the breakfast guy got me up. Today breakfast was probably the best the centre will have ever. My mate woke up and started cooking; we had a Caribbean xmas diner, Rice and peas cooked in coconut milk, with Fried Smoked Ham. I made the salad, it was best food we will ever have in the centre, don`t know in the future, maybe something better may come.

The prison food was bad either; they had Ham and Rice, for the diet food, Mashed Potatoes with smoked ham. Those that went out came back, some came in stoned from whatever they have been having and others came in stupor, drunk and some could hardly walk. Pepe, my new 62 years mate came back drunk and happy, all he could manage to say, I met my sister after 22 years, didn`t bother to ask him how it all went, but I imagine what must have happened as he showered and hit his bed. The Centre was lively as they all returned and music was blasting from most cells. My English mate, wasn`t happy, I noticed he has been chain-smoking, guess  he had same feeling as me, feelings of spending Christmas in a panama jail, thousand of miles away from home and our love ones. Guess we have to face the fact, we are here for real and the way things are going, it may be long, he has been here for 9 Months, and me? 25th December made me 3 exactly 3 Months in the Panamanian Penitentiary system. My prayer today was that I get to give my statement and hope to go to court before 6 Months, and then I can start work on my repatriation back to my homeland. Spoke with my love, they had a good time and I missed that, told me how my daughter will ask after me and at one time, cried and she joined her, now I know what I have been missing since I got married and started a family. My kids love their gifts, my daughter was surprised how Santa knows she wanted Roller Skate and other things she got, told her, Santa knows what everyone wants. Huummm! Ya Right Mr Santa. Soon she will find out the truth, that Santa is not real.

Boxing Day 2009, same breakfast guy woke me up; now, we are the first to hear him, as my cell is right beside the entrance to the Galleria Hall way. Picked up our breakfast, things gone back to normal too soon, and had my shower, My Radio hasn`t come in, decided to write my permit and hope to get the director sign it on Monday; want to get my radio in officially and also get a Guitar. Also on Monday, will be going for my X-ray, hope the Doctors will come up with solution to my back problem, as the pain is becoming more severe. Waiting to hear from my Schat on her trip to the Hospital with my boy, had a little infection in his thump, she drained the pus and the looks wasn`t nice, my dear big boy, all grown up and ask too much question. Hope it`s a minor thing. In the library, prepare what I will give to the Doctor at the Hospital about my back, hope they do the right thing. The year is almost over, don`t know what my New year`s resolution will be, hope I make one that I can keep, maybe a vow to God and promise to do something in return. We are used to having the Canal beside us, lately, I have become tired of watching Ship of various kind sail through, my desire is to be in one of them and sail by, not just looking as they sail by.

Monday, 28 December 2009, Christmas 2009 has come and gone, Spent in a place I had never in my wildest dream thought I will ever spend a time like this, in my wild days, 24th night with friends in one of the club in London with friends and 25th with my family, but here I am somewhere in the Jungle of Panama in a place called El Renacer (Rebirth). Found out on 27th that my name was not on the list for the Hospital visit, which means, I won`t be going for my X-ray, I hope they make a new appointment as soon as possible. Went out, handed in my permission to bring in my Radio, Mp3 Player and a guitar, like to take up guitar lessons while here. Hope I get that through.

Spent Sunday afternoon talking till late with this lil Fella name Cadil…. just 19, with “Hijo de la Muerta, Tattooed on his side above another one, The Black Dog (Perro Negra). The mum had him when she was 15, saw the photo of his mum in his wallet, thought was the girlfriend, was the mum, didn`t believe him, but she was. Guess I`m old enough to be his Dad if the Mum is 34. Well, Cadil is in for Homicide; which is what the most if not all the youths are in for in Panama. From official statistics, most young men are in Prison, locked up, leaving the girls to fend for themselves on the street, creating an unofficial heaven for prostitution and cheap girls. Cadil got loads on his sleeves at his age, he is a member of the dreaded Perro Negra (Black Dog); A gang which is so strong that the Government has special unit set up for them in prisons, they are kept apart from other inmates. They are known to be very violent and many are involve in devil worship; from Cadil stories, one could tell of demon possessions and supernatural power when they are in fight. He told us of how he can call up the Perro Negra Spirit and it will take over him, at that point, no matter what is done to him, he will never feel it. Once he was in a fight with about 10 other gang members from an opposing gang, he prayed for the Perro Negra Spirit and it came over him, he was able to fight and defeated the other gang members. Waooooooh !!!!, we watch things like this in films, but here, a 19 year old boy convicted of Homicide, telling us this. All this went on as he and others drank from his prison brew, fermented mix of Malt, sugar, grapes, which is was so strong and sour: Alcohol!!!

Spoke with my Schat, was worried as she didn`t called, text her and finally a call from her was all I need to sort my aching heart. We talked about many things, us and the kids. They are growing so fast and I`m missing this part of their lives, finally went to bed after watching some movies with my mates. Sent her some soul text about us and they were from the depth of my heart.

In the Library on Monday afternoon, got some letters to write, mean to say to type, with computers, nobody really bother to write anymore. I guess with innovation and technology, the world is losing the art of handwriting to keyboards and other forms of electronic means of writing and communication. A new friend at the library, the Deaf and Dumb, saw my picx and kinda wanna be my friend, nice guy, but he wacked 5 guys…. hummmm, wonder if I should keep him close or at arm’s length!!!

Got online today and little chat with my Schat, we went on webcam and saw her big and enormous tummy, wondered why my son wanted to press the tummy. She is really big now and I´m praying that she goes through it with ease and God´s grace. I love her so much and missing her dearly. The phone calls she makes almost daily does a great deal of help to me. Bless her Lord.

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ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE!!!

Posted in 1 on December 22, 2009 by doingtimeabroad

Sunday came and gone, liking my new cell and mates, it`s always lively in here. We all speak English and share things lots of things. With the uncertainty that hangs up as one wait, it`s best to keep oneself happy and make good use of the time while one wait.

The German guy, who came with me from the other centre, has a date today, but he scared her to death, for sometime now, he has been wearing sort of Hitler Moustache, we all been wondering what message he`s trying to pass out, His new date didn`t like his moustache.

Monday 21st December, Christmas is around the corner, didn`t dream of spending my Christmas locked up and away from my family. Will really miss the good times, the kids are waiting for their Very Big Surprise. That will be arrange by wify, she has been of high spirit, loads of phone calls and text messages, has really been a big blessing to me. Went up to the Doctor for my last injection, finally got an appointment for the X-ray; on the 28th December, gotta wake up very early.

Around midnight, we heard the wardens, thought they were on search routine, all phones hidden, but that wasn`t the case, we had new deportees from The States, one was brought in with us, now six in our cell, happy that the cell is big enough to hold us six and we can still move around. The new guy did 4 years in the Miami and will be doing more time here in Panama.

We spent the rest of the night talking and had some cookies and tea, went to bed around 3AM, text wify before hitting bed and she rang back, she was at work, Time differences!!!.

Woke up with pains on my 2 legs, hope I will meet a good Doctor on the 28th, who will understand my medical issues, as I have gotten a date for my X-ray. Guess need some rest, will do that now. Good lunch today, Spaghetti and Meat balls with loads of Vegetables, thanks for Carlito, gave him a Lacoste Shirt and he`s been doing me some favours, extra vegetables in my food. Nice one!!!

Lately, many ships from back home have been sailing through the canal, nice seeing them and that bring hope someday, I will leave here and be back home, sweet home again.

Lucky, called to fix a friend laptop, opportunity to update my blog and do some browsing. Thank God for him….. Nice day.

LIFE IN THE SYSTEM

Posted in Living Behind Bars in Panama on December 20, 2009 by doingtimeabroad

The weather has been very good and nice, no rain lately, loads of sun and we need it. The library was closed on Friday 11th of December as we had a program showcasing what goes on in the centre. Each inmate were allowed to invite 2 people in, songs were performed by some of the boys who has been spending time in the music studio and those working in the workshop outside displayed whatever they have been busy with. To other inmates it was time to caress and fondle their lovers, the most they can do, as security was tight, all doors to the cells were locked and the wardens were on full alert. Didn`t find any parent during the activity, guess it wouldn`t do know good having ones mother or father here, when they can get their girlfriend and do some touching. It ended well, and we, had a visit from our consul, which is always good and makes us feel special.

There was a big surprise waiting for me, what my other part sent, came in and the consul had some gift from an anonymous donor for us; Blue Shirts and Polo, which is the authorize colour used in the centre when going out for visit or any appointment.

It was so lovely seeing photos of my lovely family, had to suppress and hide the tears from coming out. The photos brought memories of good times I had with my family and how I long for it once more. Got enough medication for another 6 months, I´m like a mini pharmacy here in the centre.

The door to my cell has been broken and hasn`t been fixed for couple of days now, don`t know why? The door itself weighs more 200kg (Steel). Hope they will get it done as we are exhausted of pulling and dragging.

Days ago, met with a volunteer from an organisation working with detainees outside the homeland, she was nice and we talked about almost everything, she touched some sensitive issues about my life. Mistakes done and about family, she was helpful. She promised coming back after dropping a gift from the organisation for xmas.

Sunday, came and gone, spent most of the day indoor, reading and thinking about life on the outside and how I long for it, Guess that will be some light years from now. Do my best to keep the cell as clean as possible, but the other inmates don´t really bother about it, so long we keep up with our once in a week washing of the cell. Nobody really bother about the daily upkeep; try to keep it as clean as possible.

The hygiene of my cell mates bothers me, found out, most uses the toilet with washing their hands, makes me sick and want to change cell, hope I get that as soon as I can. Sunday evening wasn´t that good, as I notice most were sneezing and coughing, complaint of headache and fever. Hope nobody fall sick with Swine flu, being keeping myself protected with some dose of Vitamin C and Multivitamins. Gave one of the guy ibrupufen, hope it helps him. The other, we don´t talk much since we had our brawl some weeks ago. Been keeping an arm´s length from him and I guess he also. We try to avoid each other as much as we can. Someone woke up in the middle of the night and used the toilet, the sound he made brought my peaceful sleep to an end. Stayed awake with my pillow over my ears till he finished. Finally went back to my sleep. Dreams; can be very nice if they were real, lately, always finding myself on the outside. Hope it comes through.

Monday morning, woke and got to see the Doc for my injection, had to buy myself as they won´t provide. His Assistant had it done, back to the library for the Spanish lesson, wished the teacher will get guidelines on how to teach, as we keep repeating same lessons now for some time. While in class, text from my love with phone numbers from the universities in Panama, Thank God for her, she´s been great source of hope and strength all the way. Heard loads of stories how hearts got broken once one get in here, many had been dumped while banged up. But mine has decided to stand and stay by me, I believe she living to our vows the day we tied the knot. Thank God!!!

Hanging around to use one of the three computers, the boys here are fond of playing games and doing nothing else. Luckily a friend using one left for me to continue while he goes out for something. Time to update my blog, hope I get the laptop within the week so I can publish it. I´m hungry gotta eat something…. Finally, got the Mosquito net up on the window and that means ventilation. And the stench, strong odour in the cell will be reducing as we have a two way flow of air. Fried chicken and sausage for diner and loads of liquids, lemonade and water. Finally hit my bunker bed with Dan Brown`s Digital Fortress, couldn`t drop it as I have to finish it. Into the night and enjoyed every page of the novel, he is such a writer who knows how to keep his readers stuck to his book. Several texts to my love and no response, kinda worry why I have read from her, hope all is well.

Tuesday, 15th December; A new day, same routine, since the room is freshen up now, my mates are getting better, the sneezing has reduced and feverish conditions has gone down on some, hope they all get better soon. Rang my lawyer and he promised to get back to me on Wednesday on my statement with the state`s prosecutor. Hope he gets a date for me. In the library most of the day, Spanish lessons and rang some universities in panama for distance learning programs. Will be hear and reading from some, I hope I get one here and also a cheap one, I can afford. Call from a distance relation who care and want the best for me spiritually, being praying for me, thank God for people like her. Finally heard from my love, she wasn`t having credit on her phone to text back. Spoke with my Angels, missing me loads and can`t wait to hold them in my hands and hug them. Won`t let them slip from my hands again and never. Talked to my Brit friend on his project for the centre, nice idea and hope to work with him when things materialize, Waiting for the permission from the director of the centre. Will be leaving the library soon…. hope to continue tomorrow as the struggle continues!!!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009. Another come and gone, with the net up it has been a bit cooler, but still had to have my evening shower. Woke up several times before day break, and said a simple prayer, didn`t go for my second injection as it is not helping. Maybe will go for it tomorrow. Nothing special today, just that it is a different day. Got the things I ordered through Jose, he ripped me; well, that`s what ones should expect when you are locked up and have someone else to shopping for you and they all want to rip you. Guess that`s the last of me with him. He isn’t seeing my back anymore, on and off from the library, Hope I get the laptop tonight. Time off!!

Thursday, 17th December 2009, Didn`t get the lap top last night, The 3 guys left early for court and I hope 2 will get good news that they will be going home as they weren`t caught with anything. Had to stay indoor as the door was fixed today, finally we can now close our door while we are inside and stop these guys from just walking in and out. Some can be nuisance; they will walk into our cell, look around and walk out without saying a word. Most come in and view the things in the cell and what they can nick. Got hold of some magazines the US Embassy brought for some Americans at the centre. Don`t know what most Embassy expect or think of people locked up, bringing them The Economist, Newsweek, Times Magazine and Financial Times; guess they expect them to start trading in stocks while in jail. These guys didn`t even bother to flip a page, left all with me, was able to get some English news of what has been happening around the world and outside of the  centre. Back to the library, one the new boys don`t know how things are ran here, was making call in the library and the warden asked for his phone which he bluntly refused to hand over. He was cuffed and taken away, guess to be lock up in solitary, guess the warden meant business today, my Italian friend came to lend my phone to complete his call, and his phone was also taken while he was outside making call. Gotta be careful, things turned a bit nasty, heard that 3 other youths were picked up for violations, 2 ran after the warden with knife; don`t know what intentions they had, they were all locked up in solitary, guess they will be there for a long time. Sometimes the warden request for such youths to be transfer to the Maximum secured jail. Sort of edgy today, no laughs from the wardens, we stayed a bit more than normal, as the food came a bit late, was nice seeing the stars up in the sky. A very beautiful view, been quite a long time, I saw the night sky with stars; one wonder what lies beyond out there: sort of X-files feeling.

Finally, my three mates that went to court came back, there were no smiles on their faces, and two blamed the one that was caught at the airport, who took the cops to the hotel. In most countries in the world, it will be hard to convict anyone without substantial evidence linking one to the said offence. But not in Panama, like I said, one is guilty till proven innocent!!! Hope those two are exonerated from the case. But I doubt the Panamanian judiciary system, they are likely to spend couple of weeks or months before they even get the decision from the judge. Did loads of texting and read a bit before succumbing to sleep. It`s been snowing over there, she prays that it snows so that she won`t go to work next day. Pray for her….

Friday, 18th December 09, it`s suppose to be another day in Paradise, having the jungle with all the varieties of Birds and Animals, wild fruits and the view of the Canal beside us, it would have been the place to be. Relaxing with Nature all around you, but then you realize that you are locked up and deprived of the basic and most important thing desired by all mankind; Freedom. Woke up to read sms from Schat, didn`t snow over night, she was on her way to work. Over here, Nice and sunny day always, went to see the four youths in solitary, two are my friends, one is a nuisance and an idiot, hope he learns to be a bit respectful. Got my two friends Malt drink and hope to see them again, they  want me to buy them joint, pretend as if I don`t understand that Spanish, ain`t buying them no joint. Had a quick meeting with two of my cellmates on state of the cell, things ain`t going right, thought of moving out came back to mind. I hate moving, but in prison, one is happy to move to a new cell, mostly to avoid trouble, which is what I`m trying to avoid. Call from Hombre, was worried that he`s in trouble, but he`s fine, in and out of troubles. Make more of Noni Juice, lucky to have Noni tree in the centre, keep them to ripen for couple of days, then mashed them up and add Lemon, Orange and sugar for a nice juice. To the library, some reading and update my blog; and damn wardens, guess upset from yesterday`s incident came in for a search, took my phone. Hope to pay and get it back, Hope so. Paid a Tenner before lock up, he refused fiver when I offered him that.

Saturday, 19 December 2009, Woke and found out my phone has been dropped in by one of the Guards, hope it will be a nice day, didn´t sleep much, woke up between my sleep. Had to do some washing and didn´t know was my turn to wash the cell, was reminded when I woke up. Did that and it was all clean up. Couldn´t go to the library today, spent most of the day indoors, spoke with my Schat and misses her loads. Some friends called, been long never heard from them. All went fine today, had my hair cut, owing the guy 3 bucks, Panamanians are desperate with money, gotta pay him before he comes after me.

Had new Inmates from other centres brought in today and surprise, had to change my cell to one I have been longing to go, with English guys and more lively than my cell. It was a surprise move, as none of my mates were expecting it. Even the guy that had a brawl with me was surprise, guess he will be happy to have the space to himself, I pray they get some hardcore guy in with him, that will give him some hard time. I´m so happy that I moved from cell 17….. Will miss one or two guy there, but we are all here, so there will still be contact before lock down.

My Schat just rang, talked and assured each other that all is well and pray that we both survive my time in incarceration. Guess it´s by God´s grace, still got some little faith in me.

How it all began and life in Panama

Posted in Living Behind Bars in Panama on December 10, 2009 by doingtimeabroad

Busted at Panama for a crime yet to be charged as the process is so slow and at a snail speed; that was how it all began.  The mug shots and all procedures followed. Somehow the police that were meant to take care of my possessions also robbed me of them. That`s Panama police!!!

Another guy, an Italian, was brought along, charged with same offence. We ended up sharing a handcuff (silver bracelet; as he called it). That was how we became good friends.

From the initial police detention at the airport, we were moved to a transitory jail; where over 200 people are cramped together inside some block of cells that was made for 40 or less people at a time. Some had been locked up for Months, without seeing daylight or knowing when the sun set. Inside there, one neither knows when it´s day or night. A toilet and one bathroom serve the entire inmates. Each day, new convicts are brought in, most without any charge, as it is in Panama ¨You are Guilty till proven innocent¨.  The Food comes in very cold and stale, there always a joke that the food are prepared in cold rooms.  At the transitory jail, began to get the taste of Panama and her people.

There were so many characters at this detention centre.  I have met people I assume are stupid, but here they are just more stupid. One had NANCY tattooed on his belly and had to do a bigger NANCY just above the older one, we all assume that whoever Nancy was, she wasn`t happy with the first work. She demanded another one!!! Another had Eduardo tattooed on his chest, wondered if Eduardo was his son, but when asked, he told us that He is Eduardo, didn`t bother to asked why he had his name tattooed on his Chest. I assume his friends kept forgetting his name. Eduardo had no other option than getting his name on his chest. He was in love with himself. Others when release end up being re-arrested and brought back and will eventually end up in jail, guess where they like to belong as there are shelter, free food and free bed  to lay and also the only friends or family they know; the brotherhood of Gangs (which is seen by the different artwork of Tattoos on their bodies).

Right from the transitory jail, we get to experience and understood the brutality of Panama jails and its corrupt officials. The Transitory jail was suppose to be an investigative unit, when after that is done, the convict will be sorted and sent to the main jail (That without trail or appearance before the judge). Knives are kept for protection by most inmates and in case of fights; amazing how knives get in to such a place. The police are paid to smuggle in anything.

With a private lawyer and our consulate pushing things, we were transferred from there to one of the main jail, a 2 hours drive from Panama City. It was the longest trip I ever had, shackled with Irons like the ones seen on American TV, we were driven to the La Joyita (Pronounced La Oyita; as the J is silent in Spanish), when we got there, both the inmates peeping from their cells and the police at guard gave us the meanest look ever. It wasn´t the best reception anyone will expect.

But it turned out good for us, as we were not meant to stay in La Joyita, but La Joya (La Oya), there we will eventually end up with other Foreigners and without the Panamanians (whom are known to be aggressive and always with knives or other sort of arms) . We ended up in Pavilion 6 in La joya…. it was a world of its own, separated from other pavilions, housing Panamanians.

Pavilion 4; was told by my new cell mate will be the best place to look out whenever we are out and about from our cell. Didn`t seem to get what he meant, but with time, I found out that, truly as many said, it was actually the inmates of Pavilion 4 that were the main attraction whenever they come out. They were travesties (who usually gave the Pavilion 6 inmate some shows of what they got for some few dollars). Imagine, most of these men had been locked up for years, without you know what and no conjugal visit. They paid dollar each to watch those she-male throw off their tops. I never had the opportunity to see them do it, but seen some of them walk around. I guess missed the shows; some were apparently very beautiful and could be mistaken for the real woman.

We woke up on the second day from shouts from pavilion 5; housing Panamanians youths (most in jails for Homicide and gang related killings). There was a stabbing and we later learned that the victim eventually died from the wounds. That was a wake up call on living Panama jail, once you are in, someone on the street could have you silence for whatever reasons known to them.

Quickly we adapted to the life there, Started by sleeping on the floor. Though it´s a tropical country, but the floor can be very cold at night. And with a sheet of polyfoam bought by my consulate and a sheet for cover. As days turned to weeks, I was given a bed by a fellow inmate who chooses to sleep in the hammock. Now I enjoyed my night, also my taste for music began to changed, listening to Latino music and especially Vallenatos (a kind of amorous Colombian songs). Thoughts of Home and my love keep my night bit longer when I listen to these songs. Started reading, thanks to Gringo logo; an American in my cell, we shared books and we talked a lot. He is a well of experience; a Vietnam Vet who also served in Panama in the 1970s where he eventually married a Panamanian lady who was too beautiful to stay with him. Even his superior officers couldn´t resist her beauty, they eventually got divorced. He decided to come back to panama with hope of finding another love and marriage. But ended up in La joya!!!
Gringo Loco was good at telling jokes, guess one thing he learned from his days in the Army and as a prison correction officer after he was discharged from the army back in the states.

At La joya, met people with all sort of stories, some had been locked up for years without trails, some presumed they are innocent of what they have been charged. But locked up without reasons, some are there just for association. What a judiciary process!!!

The food here at La Joya was a bit better than those served at the Transitory jail, but the smell of the food and what they called porridge (Mixture of Rice, Brown Beans, potatoes and who knows what), can`t even pass as food for dogs in most countries. One got no choice, but thank God, we are allowed to cook and make our meals. That helps…..

Panama, so many has happened to this little country nestled among other countries. Once colonized by the Colombians. And in the late 1980´s the American made a just call and removed the then Dictator, General Noriega.

The Image of this nation has been laundered to make it appeal to tourist and businesses from the west and now it has become a big success. The Canal free trade zone offers a tax free heaven for many businesses. The Canal that runs through the country linking the Caribbean to the Pacific has brought a great deal of economic development to the country. Fleet of ship that passes through the canal everyday; pay certain amount to the country, thereby boosting the economy. All kind and types of ship sail through the canal every now and then.  And just along the barbed wire fence of El renacer, the Panama Canal rail line runs through, the train are locomotives running I guess on Coal or diesel (Very noisy); bringing in Goods and containers from Colon (One of the province) to the canal depot. It also takes tourist on site seeing of the Canal, who apparently will wave at us whenever they ride by on the train; guess many don`t know who we are and what are all doing in the middle of the forest.

At El renacer, we love the view of the cruise ships, they are magnificent and massive. Whenever they sail through the canal, we can see passengers waving at us, same with them doubt if they also have idea of what is happening here. Most will think, it is a sort of holiday resort nestled in the forest, as that is where we are. An American inmate once told me, that he once sailed on of the large cruise that sails through the canal into Panama during the good old days. Then he thought of El Renacer as a holiday resort and wonder what goes on in here. But as live will have it. He is now a guest to the El Renacer resort centre as he thought. Told he, welcome to El Holiday of your life….

The Food at El Renacer is much the same as La Joya, but much warmer as it is close to the city and where the foods are prepared. And here, since visit is every week, one can afford to get fresh produce every week.

3rd Dec, woke up early from the sound of the guys that serve the breakfast. Almost cursed him, as he woke me in the middle of a sweet dream (guess that one thing they can`t take from you when you are locked up; right to dream!!!). Funny how breakfast are served here, as early as 5am, with the pitch of his voice, one can`t afford another second of sleep till he has made his round. Today was my first time to come out of my cell so early (6.30am), enjoyed the early morning fresh air and the light sun. Those on education programs and those working around the centre (when approved for either, one get a reduced term; a year is counted as 6 Months) started filing out from their respective cells to the main entrance. Others woke up to daily routine of exercises of diverse forms. Some to the early morning coffee (30ct per cup) and smoke of cigarettes which are actually prohibited in all Panama Jails; but they still find a way to get in. A call from my love after she got my sms about my dream… hummmm, was funny conversation, guess we both needed the talk.

Had a visit today from my consul and other representatives from our beloved country, it is the official visit done once in a month. Much like our own pay day,  got all the necessary toiletries and loads of papers from back home and more books to read.

Still feeling and having ruthless pain on my lower back, taken all types of painkillers prescribed by the resident doctor, none seems to work.  Hope to see him again, hope this time around, he will do something better, like sending me to the hospital for proper check up.

About to hit the gym, after spending the rest of the day at the library, reading and writing….

Spend the evening reading The Tailor of Panama, nice novel and later watched the Bank job and final destination IV. Hit the bed and deep in my sleep heard the phone rang, thought was my alarm set to 5am so I won`t miss my round of picking up the breakfast for me and my cellmate, can`t wait till Sunday, when my round will be over. Then someone else starts on Monday for one week. The phone call came from someone who has no idea of the time difference between Panama and where she was calling from. Here it was 1.40am (4th Dec) and I guess she was on a time zone of about 8.40am. Made her understand the time difference and promised calling back. Went back to my sleep and it was long as I can remember, my alarm woke me up. It was 5am, I felt as if I`ve not slept much. Got back to sleep till eightyish and up for the doctor appointment.

The centre seems to know what to do, but prefers not to do it, I`m dead sick with terrible backache (lower back pain), I know what`s wrong with me, as I have this problem for some years. I explained to him, but he`s been sending me away with different types of painkillers, which does do anything to alleviate the pains, that has now gone down through my left leg, sending burning sensation on my left bum and prickly pain on my leg. The doctor; who knows where he got his certificate sent me away with Amp and an injection to relieve the pain. Wonder what Amp will do with a disc problem on my vertebrae. Guess I`m hanging on the mercy of God`s grace.

Today 4th Dec 09, new inmates (those who have done most of their time and have got 2 years or less to serve) are brought in from different centres across the country. Has the process is, they are brought here to be rehabilitated and become functional members of the society when release. But as I have heard, most end up reoffending and are back to the centres. It `s like a circle that doesn`t end. Though some come to realize they could better their life here, a friend Karlito got his law degree while still here, he has spent 10 years here and hope to be out next year. Many others are following in his steps, taking up programs organised by the prison as part of the rehabilitation process.

Today 9th Dec 09, yesterday was Mother`s day in Panama unlike the rest of the world, wasn`t any special for us here at the centre, except for those with permission to go out for 12 hours of visit. In numbers they left as early as 6am, with what they will do in mind. When they got back, some where drunk or stoned, told one that by this time next year many will be fathers. One confesses that he spent the whole time in bed with his girlfriend. Rang his mum that he wasn`t allowed out. Hummm! What a naughty fellow. On Monday, the 7th, went to the centre`s Doctor again for my back pain which is becoming unbearable, hope he won`t give me another ibuprofen as that is the only medication he has to issue for everything and antibiotic. No, this time around, he gave me a new prescription to be purchased by me and finally signed the letter for an X-ray appointment with the hospital. I heard, making the appointment may take another century, which I hope not. Rang my consulate and she promised to go with me for the x-ray and help wit the language. Tried getting the new prescription fax to the consulate, that I have to pay someone working at the office to help me do it; should be free of course.

Over the week, there`s been few releases and several batches of new arrivals, mostly youths from the juvenile prison, many don`t just know how to adjust to the system here, but they sort of like it here, more food and it comes hot, as most of the adults don`t eat the prison food. Picked interest in a dumb and deaf youth, who wasted 5 lives, learnt he was paid as little as $500 to do the job, and being very small and sleek, he move undetected and did his operations smoothly. In panama you can get anyone wasted for as little as nothing.

Expecting my Lawyer today, hope he comes as I don`t hear from him and he does not return calls or my text messages. What a lawyer!!! Had calls from a good old friend from Germany and also from my love. Her calls and conversation with her has been my greatest source of strength and comfort other than one I get from the man above.

Another one bites the dust!!! On the news this morning, 2 guys from my country were picked up at the airport, waiting to hear more. Hope someone tells them that Panama is a no go area and they should desist from coming here. More on news, more homicides and robbery, that`s Panama for us. No day goes by without such on the news, so it`s something we are used to, don`t know what image it portrays of the country that many are planning to come for their next holiday. It`s also a banking heaven, with over 120 Banks, money laundering and drug money end up here in Panama and a good source or origin is made up for such fund. Guess that`s so much for Wednesday, will be do some exercise later in the day. Before then, back to my Spanish lessons, I`m enjoying my self-study program, but not doing much practically as most people wants to speak English with me. I hope they stick to their language and I learn from them.

Finally, got the laptop tonight, hope to be online and get all these online, call this evening from a friend who and several others from Nepal had been locked up for more than 6 months at the transitory jail. Can´t believe they are still there, this is mean has this men came in to Panama seeking for asylum. Well, guess that is Panama and it justice system.

Tonight, tempers flared up in my cell between 2 inmates, as I have learned, prison is where you learn to tolerate anything and moreover watch over your back as nobody will do that for you. Thank God, it ended up with just words exchanged among the 2 guys, over watching TV or DVD. They drew lines, but no blows and both end up sleeping.

THE REBIRTH PROCESS; LIFE BEHIND BARS IN PANAMA

Posted in Living Behind Bars in Panama on December 2, 2009 by doingtimeabroad

Panama, according to a writer “Has got everything God needed to make paradise. Great farming, beaches, mountains, wild life you wouldn`t believe, put a stick in the ground you get a fruit tree, people so beautiful you could cry” (excerpt from Tailor of Panama). A beautiful and multicultural nation with the world`s two greatest gateways; The Panama Canal.

El renacer; at first, I wonder what it meant, then I found out it means TO BE REBORN. It is about the rebirth of my life and that of many caught up in this Central-American country; PANAMA. So much for this little country and very popular for the Panama canal that runs through the country, linking the caribbean and the Pacific. Making the canal a tourist attraction and high earner for the country. The same canal runs beside the El Renacer Rehabilitation Centre. I happen to be a resident among the hundreds of others who go to bed and wake up daily in this institution.

It all started on the 25th of september 2009 at the Tocumen international Airport, Panama.