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Panamanian Crazyness
September 19, 2009, 2:15 pm
Filed under: Panama

Dear friends,

Pardon the lack of conjugation since I am typing from a Spanish keyboard and am not yet used to one.

Panama is absolutely crazy. I dont even know where to begin. I started my first experience in Panama by braving the Diablo Rojo, an bus that is just about as crazy as the country itself. It is basically a school bus in brightly painted colors, and they are used for transportation all over Panama City. Most tourists take a taxi from the airport into the city. However, a taxi costs 7 dollars, and a bus costs 25 cents. Besides, what is better than the experience of an insanely crowded bus, all goggling at the only strange white tourist?

The strangest part about Panama is that the US dollar is their currency. I did not expect to be using the US dollar here, but I am. I paid a quarter for the bus ticket. There are a few things I promptly realized when I started paying with US currency here. One, our coins are freaking tiny compared to other countries. Two, I felt as if I had time warped to the 1950s, because everything is SO CHEAP here that I feel I could recount the stories that your granparents told you- ´´when I was a kid, a sandwich only cost 10 cents´´ kind of deal.

The city. Panamanian crazyness. I dont know if I can last too long here. It is absolutely chaotic. I am happy that I am staying in probably the safest area of Panama City- the business district, El Cangrejo. Apparently next to five star hotels, there is one for eight dollars a night. Its in a safe area. I am happy.

Yesterday I went to Casco Antiguo, the old part of town. I have never in my life seen such a stark contrast of rich and poor. There are absolutely GORGEOUS buildings- they look like they were imported directly from Tuscany, Italy. And they are standing right next to crumbling, dilapidated slum houses. I have never felt so confused. There were cobblestone streets leading into wineries and restaurants with impeccably dressed waiters greeting you politely outside. Then there were people from the slums, dressed in dirty clothes, the frown lines in their face set in deep from so many years of hard work, dragging their children down the street. It was the most beautifully depressing place I have ever seen.

Like I said, I am staying in a very cheap hostel. I am staying in a room with five other people, with no fan (and the Panamanian sun is the devil, all right), a substandard shower, and a pretty unclean hostel. Thats ok, I can rough it for a few days. What I DIDNT expect was going out to dinner (especially dressed how I was and after sweating all day) to one of the nicest restaurants in Panama. I went out to dinner with two fellow hostel girls from Switzerland, who said that there was a Swiss restaurant in Panama they really wanted to go to because they had been traveling for a month and a half and missed home. When we showed up at the restaurant, my jaw dropped. There was a man dressed in a suit playing dainty music on a white piano. A live lobster lay on a dinner plate in the middle of the piano. This was by far the nicest restaurant I have ever been to while traveling.

But I decided to go along with it. Sometimes, you just need to treat yourself well. And let me tell you, nothing is better than expecting you are going to rough it for a few days, and then suddenly you go out to an unbelievably nice dinner. Also, in reality it wasnt VERY expensive- this is Panama, after all. I had a sudden hankering for Salmon when we were there, so I ordered Salmon carpaccio for dinner-12 dollars. It was some of the best salmon I have ever had in my life, and I felt that the 12 dollars were well spent. The conversation was great, the food was great, and the bathroom even had lotion that I ended up slathering all over my dried up shoulders from so much sun. It was a great way to end the day.

Today I plan to go to Panama Viejo, ruins in Panama City, and finally check out the Panama Canal. I got some sound advice from the two Swiss girls to go to this place called The Valle, a little town in the mountains two hours away from here. I think Im going to head there tomorrow- theres only so much time you can spend in this city.

Until then friends, much love,


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