I’ve Been Training Dogs here in Panama to be Bilingual. Well, Trilingual if I Want to be Honest

In Spanish it’s “Perros.” In English I say “Puppies.” In German I say it differently, but I really just wing it. It’s guttural, but my German is by blood and I really don’t remember it.

Fred Ermlich
2 min readOct 11, 2021


See the dead eyes? Scary Hispanic Dogs. Image by kim_hester from Pixabay

I’m not the only one confused. The Panamanians surrounding me are a bit confused too. Too many languages come out of my mouth.

That makes me an extraño, which means stranger or foreigner. I find this mildly amusing. The neighbors don’t.

The people who mostly understand me are the Chinese merchants. They’ve lived here for a couple of hundred years (cuz of the canal), and have pretty good English and perfect Spanish. They seem to understand the few Chinese phrases I know.

(You gotta be careful of Chinese. Every other word is “Fuck.”)

I kid you not. Read some Kevin Kwan if you don’t believe me.

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No, that’s not a German or Chinese swear word.

It describes Panamá perfectly though.

Although there are only 4 million people here, there’s probably 4 billion cows and chickens. And cats and dogs and children born from children. It’s all very confusing, but it’s


Ya gotta love these Latin countries. I sure do.

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Well anyway, I went for a walk at 5:30 this morning, and I don’t remember where I went. I’m out of money for the rest of this month, so I must have walked a ways. I was maybe thinking about the Pacific Ocean, but that’s 3 hours to walk. The bus costs 40 cents, but I’m saving that money. Someday maybe I’ll walk to the beach — it’s not really that far away…

Oh, wait. Now I remember. Sr. Hernandez owes me a pair of leather sandals he made for me. I pre-paid, and today was the day to pick them up. I walked past his house 3 times, but he wasn’t up and running.


Nothing much matters in Panama.

This is the best country in the world, and I really mean that.

It’s tranquilo.

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About them dogs. It’s my way of fucking with everybody’s heads, that’s all. No malice intended. Tranquilo. That’s a serious word here. It’s like, “take a breath.”

… Fred Ermlich



Fred Ermlich

Living in rural Panamá — non-extractive, non-capitalistic. Expat USA. Scientist, writer, researcher, teacher. STEM mentor +languages. Gargoylplex@protonmail.com