I am just a speck of walking flesh in this immense universe. This is how I always feel in the company of skyscrapers. The city is clean and calm for the first time today, instead of car horns and alarms, Sunday mass choir singing rises to the 8th floor hostel balcony where I sit and ponder the vastness of our shared continent. This city is filled with waiting. A border town like no other I’ve seen: to the North lies the very lucrative and internationally used Panama Canal (which was just been voted to be expanded), towards the South the Pan-American Highway winds to an end at the Darien Straight, to the West is the Pacific Ocean, and to the East a skinny neck of land and the Caribbean Sea. Vladi and I will soon take the two hour jaunt to Portobello on the Caribbean coast and board a sailboat that will glide us to San Blas islands and finally, Cartagena, Colombia, South America!
Today the puffy white clouds backdrop the newly cleaned apartment and office buildings shimmering in the sun after a nights worth of rain beat down. It’s lovely, but of course I’m not fooled by this temporal urban beauty like the eye of a storm, this city has been kicking my ass from the moment I arrived, and come Monday, it will be crazy as ever with commuters, diesel exhaust and car alarms. I keep comparing Panama City (unfavourably) to San Jose , a city I absolutely loved. There were parks galore filled in the evenings with songbirds marking their territory at the top of their little lungs. Intercity buses like the kind we got back home took us to a free student design show and an independent cinema which screened (also free!) the Ecuadorian movie Entre Marx y una mujer desnuda (Between Marx and a Naked Woman). Old churches and theatre houses line the streets next to universities adorned with graffiti and stencils (my favourite: “viva Mesoamerica rebelde” or “long live rebellious Mesoamerica”). San Jose is a beautiful city I would gladly live and work in one day if the opportunity arrises; during this trip however our stay was short, three nights and we were of to Bocas del Torro.
When we were in Leon we met and befriended Javier, whom we called el Rastas, an artesano from Bocas who was totally down to earth and just such a nice guy that we were compelled to see his hometown. There was also an organic farm pull, but the Silicon Valley ex-programmer dogged me and never returned my emails. Still hopeful we could spend some time working the earth and saving our funds, we made our way to the Carribean for the first time this trip. Bocas is an archipelago of islands scattered in the sky-blue Carribean Sea close to the Panamanian border with Costa Rica . We arrived by ferry to the main town on Island Colon, one of the locations of Columbus ’ infamous arrivals to the Americas (Renee coincidentally is spending Thanksgiving at another site that Columbus happened upon, Roatan Island in Honduras ). Since we couldn’t find this farm on our own and still were without reply, we only stayed a few days. One beautiful afternoon was spent at Boca del Drago, where we splurged on the yummiest seafood lunch (menu: fresh shellfish mix of calamari, shrimp, little lobster tails and fish seasoned with coconut, fried fresh fish, gallo pinto rice and beans with coconut, salad and lots of Panama beer). The next day we island hopped to Bastamientos Island , where we hiked through lush green forest, led by our new crew Harold and Lee, slipping and slidding in the mud while surfers totting their long boards passed us with ease. We arrived at an amazing virgin beach lined with vegetation and palm trees where Harold and Lee found us some fresh coconuts to munch on.
We ended up chilling at the tourquois blue waters too short a time because since arriving in Panama City, we’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for reasonable passage to Colombia . First we followed our noses around town looking for this cheap flight we heard about in Nicaragua . When we found a flight, it was three times more expensive than we had heard but even still we made a reservation five days in advance. Finally we decided to just spend the money and travel by sailboat. It's the biggest expense so far, but it turns out to be cheaper than flying since 5 days of food and room are included, plus a big Thanksgiving bash! All in all I am looking forward to returning to my cheap-o self once we hit land in South America!
Happy Thanksgiving to all! Eat tons of yummy food for me!