Saturday morning lacked in motivation. I knew I was going to head out to Casco Viejo (casually referred to as Casco), so it was just a matter of getting showered and out the door. Since plans were minimal to non-existent, the timing was unimportant, and I left shortly after noon.
There is more than one way to get to Casco, but I am most familiar with the route through El Chorillo (that part of town where you go if you want to buy drugs/be mugged/disappear; the side streets of which male, Spanish-speaking friends would not go), which is somewhat unnerving. But it’s a straight shot, and I made it – even finding a parking spot right in the Plaza Catedral. The clouds cleared off a little (so the sun’s warmth compounded the humidity). The “purpose” of the trip was shopping if anything, and to that end I wandered around to re-familiarize myself with the area and where I might want to buy something.
I was pleasantly surprised upon crossing an intersection to run into someone familiar who I had met a week or so ago through my boss. Maybe this city isn’t so strange and unfamiliar after all. As I passed through the Plaza Franzia, I ignored someone wishing me “Buenas tardes” and then “Good afternoon”. But the voice was persistent, came alongside me, and in short order I had myself a tour guide.
While I can be rude and brusque when necessary, somehow I am also incapable of cutting people off when they are (or seem) harmless. But I did learn that this previously posted photo depicts Noriega’s former headquarters. And I was taken to the Presidential Palace (which hosts the offices, not dwelling, of the President) – which the police guard at the neighboring streets would have deterred me from attempting. The police are apparently paid some $350/month (which does little to instill confidence).
After a half hour or so, when we were about to head to a different part of the city, I said something about meeting people and thusly extricated myself (less some cash that I gave him as compensation, alora).
On my way back to a shop, I saw another familiar face across the street. 🙂 It shouldn’t have been surprising, considering Paul lives in Casco. But he mentioned a music festival that was happening that afternoon at the National Theater. So, after some ice cream and another avoidably unavoidable encounter with someone looking for work/money, I headed to the National Theater.
There was some Jazz music (and air conditioning!), and I met up with Sean and Paul. When we’d had enough jazz, we went outside and had some dinner from the vendors the city had brought in. And I realized that I should just make a habit of sharing meals with people who are more familiar with the local cuisine, because then I’ll try things I wouldn’t buy myself.
For $3.50 I suppose we got what we paid for, but it wasn’t that bad. Obviously we didn’t eat the head (although Sean did say the tail tasted like potato chips…I can’t verify this as I did not try it), but the rest of it was fairly normal – as far as sub-par fish goes. Eventually we went to Paul’s roof, and I enjoyed the view of the Pacific before heading back to my house shortly before dark. (I wasn’t sure I could navigate the way out of Casco not going through Chorillo, so I opted for the straight shot and made it home without a single wrong turn. Boo-yah)