Three-and-a-half is a surreal number. Not only is it K’s age (which makes me 19.5 when she was born. Kind of weird?), it is also the number of days left until I bid Panama farewell.
I look hopefully toward the (unknown) future and anticipate that I will continue to discover how this trip and job changed and grew me. While this life has grown familiar, and I can guarantee you these two girls will be missed, I am content with my two months in Panama.
This past weekend I attempted three of those to-do items, although only two were successfully accomplished.
Saturday morning I woke up at 5:30, drove to Ancon Hill to watch the sunrise over the Pacific and Panama City…only to find a closed gate (about?) halfway up the road. So while technically I made it to the hill, it doesn’t really count for what I was intending
Sunday, with a fairly significant amount of pep talking, I got myself to the bus station in order to find my way to Portobelo on the Atlantic side of Panama. This business of taking a bus was somewhat more daunting than figuring out the bus system in Seattle. In Panama City, buses are known as “diablo rojo” – red devil – and many look like this:
The first bus I took was more of a beaten up Greyhound – complete with a helpful bus driver with whom I was forced to practice my Spanish as his English was quite limited. It was good preparation because for the second leg, the converted school bus was full to the point of people standing on the steps of the bus with the doors open. I stood for probably half the 45 minute journey, and I concluded that my bus fear was unfounded. While that trip was crowded, it was no different than a bus or metro in Paris come late afternoon. Granted, I have heard stories of the frequency of robberies on buses in El Salvador – but Panama is far from El Salvador where safety issues are concerned.
I made it to Portobelo just in time (unintentionally) for the service/mass at the Catholic church where the statue of the Black Christ is (I was given a postcard and didn’t make the effort to take a photo – and there’s always Google). Although I have only attended mass a handful of times, and this service was in Spanish, it was interesting to note differences. There was a definite Caribbean flair to the service which I enjoyed. 🙂
After the service, I wandered around the (very small) town, saw some ruins, accidentally had octopus with rice for lunch (really, it is a mind over matter business. It tasted like tuna and the texture was fine – as long as I didn’t pay attention to the fact that I was eating tentacles).
There wasn’t much in the way of a beach, and since I wanted some time to wade in the Atlantic/Caribbean, I hopped on the bus pictured above and rode a bit down the road and got off where there looked to be a good spot. Unfortunately the rain came not long after, but I did wander into the Caribbean.
Once I got back to the City a few hours later, I had the strangely difficult task of getting a taxi home. While taxis are plentiful at the bus terminal, which is adjacent a large mall, they didn’t want to take me to the smaller town/suburb where I live. Best guess is the journey would be too short? All the same, it was annoying. Finally, someone was willing to take me, but he said $5, and I said no way. After a couple more rejections, I took the next driver who was willing to drive all 5 minutes to Clayton. I regretted not asking the price before we left, but thankfully he charged me the much more reasonable $3.
There’s a hill near where I live, and the sun was just setting, so I took the quick opportunity to avail myself of a photo (it almost makes up for missing the sunrise).