K is for Kilo

Costarican idioms (loosely interpreted)

cocaine05Okay, I’ve run aground; K is a difficult letter in the Spanish alphabet. There are all sorts of K words, but they are mostly translations of things like Kant, Karachi, Kurdish, etc.

So today  I thought I would discuss Kilo. Most Americans know it as a unit of weight; one we refuse to use in our weights and measures system. Remember when the USA was going to switch from the imperial to the metric system? What a disaster. Americans just refused to do it.

I became accustomed to the metric system when I worked as a nurse, and it is such a no-brainer I’m surprised Americans are reluctant to make the switch. 10 X 10= 100, 100 X 100 = 1000. What could be easier? But we get caught up in the conversions… let’s see, a kilo is 2.2 pounds… so that makes my ten pound bag of sugar… how many kilos?

Americans are more adept at associating kilos with drugs. Cocaine. Marijuana. Columbian cartels and the Mafia. I think Americans think it sounds more like a foreign invasion if it’s in that foreign measurement. Screaming headlines like: COSTA RICA SEIZES 900 KILOS OF COCAINE. Well, clearly, this is a foreign problem. But, whether the reports are in metric or Imperial, the problem is All-American. All drugs grown or manufactured on this continent are headed for that market.

Both Panama and Costa Rica share the dubious distinction of being narrow countries on the isthmus connecting South America with the rest of Central America. Consequently, there is a logjam of drugs headed north.

The fishermen who live in Manzanillo talk about the Two Waters, the area off the coast where big boats with powerful motors run up and down the coast. They have found jettisoned packages of cocaine and brought them home. Certainly a better return than a boatload of pargo. There were a couple of bad boys down here that took to running that course at night, looking for the boats and stealing their cargo. One can only imagine the gun battles out there on with bullets flying in the salt spray. Their boat mysteriously caught fire one day. It exploded, killed one and burned the other two badly. Dangerous work.

If the contraband is not running on the sea it is laboriously making its way overland on ancient Indigenous trails. We often hear the US DEA planes flying overhead, and for about six months one year we heard loud regular explosions at night. Alan, who spent a year in Vietnam, knew immediately what it was: aerial reconnaissance, looking for marijuana fields and transport routes.

The only arrests we read about in the papers involve low-level targets. The big fish always seem to get away, and the kilos keep flowing north.


  3 comments for “K is for Kilo

  1. 13/04/2012 at 6:17 am

    Here in England we use Kilos. The natives took a long time to switch over and market-stall holders refuse to comply. But at least it’s established now. Australia handled the switch over within a week. Simple. That country’s got things right. Keep blogging”


  2. 12/04/2012 at 10:39 am

    Hi – dropping in from the A-Z challenge and was delighted to find another expat, albeit a few thousand miles away. I live in Tenerife, where the Spanish is more South American than Castilian.

    • 13/04/2012 at 7:01 pm

      Hi, Liz. I have visited your blog and enjoyed your views of life in Tenerife. Such fun to find other expats blogging about life. Alas, I’ve fallen behind and probably won’t be able to catch up. There is a family emergency I need to attend to, but I have subscribed to your blog and will read your posts when I have time.

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