El Mesa de Billar Americano (The Pool Table)

A picture of Daniel and me Photo by Clay Reddick
A picture of Daniel and me
Photo by Clay Reddick

I decided to write about an event that happened to me at the Hooked on Panama hotel.  I thought it was a fun situation that upon reflection had some of the immersion aspects that occur when you travel to a different country…especially one where a different language is dominant.  This happened Monday night (July 21st).

After we traveled through the muck of pigs rear and walked on the beautiful beaches of Burico peninsula we finally arrived at Hooked on Panama.  It was a sight for stinky eyes.  We arrived and after a few minutes we’re told which cabin we are in.  My roommate (Scott) and I did a quick walk to cabin 3 where he graciously let me take the first shower (he always does…but it was probably because of how bad I smelled).  After jumping out of the shower and dressing the owner Dan mentioned to Scott that the bar was open, which was my cue to scurry on down there for a Balboa cerveza or two.

When I arrived and got my beer the only people there were the bartender and Daniel.  Daniel is our driver during this trip.  He is a super nice guy.  Daniel always picked us up on time or early AND we never really got lost.  The only thing about Daniel is he didn’t speak any English, he spoke Spanish and Italian (being from Italy).  When I discovered the pool table that fact didn’t stop me from asking him to play a game.

First let me describe the pool table.  It is one of the worst pool tables I have ever seen.  There was clear tape in at least three spots keeping the felt together, but that was not the worst part!  One entire quadrant of the table tilted so far to the side bumper that you could not get a ball to stop.  Each time it would happen Daniel would yell “Mira! Mira!” and we would chuckle.

Now onto the game!  After we both understood that we were going to play the game we both came to a realization at the same time (I could see it in his eyes)…how are we going to play with the same rules?  I have no idea what type of pool games they play in Panama (or Italy) and I could not understand what he was asking.  So, we resorted to picking up the pool balls and kind of understanding what we were trying to make.  He broke and made the first ball.  So I picked it up out of the pocket, pointed to it and the rest of the solid balls, and he knew what to go for.  I also pointed at the eight ball and said “NO! Last!” and I think he got that too.  Anyway, we played a terrible game where we both missed a ton of shots, but had a lot of fun.  I believed we impressed each other with our unique versions of curse words in numerous languages (Spanish, English, Italian).  The game ended when I made the 8 ball…but scratched while doing it.  He pointed to me and said “winner?”.  I shook my head and pointed at him and said “you are the winner hombre”.  We both laughed, and say winner whenever we pass each other now.

I picked this experience to write about because I thought it did a good job showing how to get past the language barrier, and have fun while doing it.  We had a goal in line, and with a very limited combined vocabulary we were able to complete our goal…playing a game of pool.  More importantly we had a great time while doing it.  I will never forget him yelling mira as the ball stars doing a circle towards the side bumper.  This is an example of what traveling to another country and culture is about.  You share a good time with a good person and don’t let a silly thing like language get in the way.


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