Is There a Hole in the Boat?
Darrin DuFord
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Buy *Is There a Hole in the Boat?: Tales of Travel in Panama without a Car* by Darrin DuFord online

Is There a Hole in the Boat?: Tales of Travel in Panama without a Car
Darrin DuFord
196 pages
June 2006
rated 1 of 5 possible stars

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The author states that this is not a travel guide. His purpose is to fill in where there is "little written about daily lives in modern Panama." The country consists of autonomous provinces (he doesn't say how many) with small indigenous groups whose customs and beliefs vary.

He describes the re-enactment of the Kuna Revolution in Kuna Yala province in the northeast. On Bastimentos Island off Bolas del Toro, in the northwest, is the home of Polo, a solitary man living 40 years on a nearly-inaccessible beach. Boaters and hikers seek him out for a good meal and, sometimes, a night on the beach. In Panama City, he tours the room in the Vatican Embassy where Manual Noriega took asylum from the Americans. He also compares the products of the city's smoothie vendors.

In Darien he does not attempt to travel the 30-mile gap in the Transamerican Highway from Yaviza to the border with Columbia. Columbian guerrillas have spilled over into this lawless territory, and it is very unsafe. He does take in Los Santos's version of bullfighting : taunting breeding bulls in a corral set up at town's center. No bulls are killed in this sport.

DuFord speaks at length about the Panamanian public buses (old American school buses with new coats of colorful, graffiti-style paint jobs) and about the making of seco (the homebrew of the region).

Many native Spanish speakers I know prefer to read in English because, with so many more available words in English, ideas can be expressed with fewer words than in Spanish. DuFord's writing runs contrary to that belief. He is unnecessarily wordy, to the point of distraction. Plus, his words seem oddly chosen : bakers midwifing their bread and embroiderers embalming their designs in fabric, for example. His metaphors just don't work.

This book (197 pages) was hard to finish. The author provided no incentive to keep reading.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Midge Bork, 2007

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