Once we left the cushion of Joshua’s Aunts’ company, we had to fend for ourselves. We found a hostel in Casco Viejo near where we had been staying. It was in an old, traditional building filled with original art and had a great view. It seemed like a no-brainer.
And then we stayed there. It was like the opposite of a college party where everything looks better at night and turned into an ugly demon which we battled four nights in a row. Joshua described the hostel like the classic Westley Snipes film, “Blade,” where you are welcomed into the best party you’ve ever been to and then it starts raining blood and everyone around you turns into a vampire. Basically, we stayed in a shoebox sized room directly above the nightly traveler party spot. In addition, we only had two toilets for 100+ people, did not have A/C, and the dirty hostelers who STOLE our food would smile at us at breakfast. I hate to publish this on the internet, but I’ll be 30 years old this year which is far too old (and wise) for this B.S.
But I lost my cool a little when I taped this sign to the fridge.
When the music would end at 3AM and the drunk hostelers yelling down the halls and banging on the doors would finally pass out, Joshua and I would try to fall asleep in our individual puddles of sweat. Without touching at all, that first night we made a pact to avoid party hostels whenever possible in the future.
We re-learned how to eat at local sodas/fondas where meals of chicken, rice and lentils would fill our plates and bellies for $2.50. It didn’t have quite the same flavor as we had become accustomed to, but it provided calories, vitamins and sustenance enough to make it to our next meal.
Our first solo adventure in Panama was to see “The Hunger Games” or “Juegos de Hambre.” It just so happened that our movie date coincided with half price movie night in Panama! Every Panamanian that lives in the city was at the movie. The line was like Disneyland. We waited 25 minutes just to buy our tickets, but then we got to select our seats too, all for a whopping $2.25 opening week. Quite a deal.
We were nervous about the Spanish version of the movie…would be be able to understand the anguish Katniss was feeling in the arena?! Lucky for us, the version was in English with Spanish subtitles. Did I say lucky? I mean it was the worst idea ever. Either the Panamanians couldn’t read or they chose not to because there was not a quiet person in the theater. It was like inviting every person who has ever been known to talk during the movies to this specific showing of Hunger Games. Long, loud conversations in every direction detracted from the action on screen. Although we weren’t entirely pleased with the casting, I would have liked to hear the dialogue. I can’t imagine what a sex-scene would do to this crowd. There was so much hooting and hollering when one actor would suggestively look at another that you’d think we were watching a porn. The movie did not live up to our expectations and the crowd was rather frustrating, but overall, it was a memorable cultural experience.
We toured the Panama Canal Museum which was entirely in Spanish, meaning we understood less than half of it. We tried, which is why our brains hurt as we left.
We finally added to the curio cabinet we will own someday. We hunted for the perfect mola which is an indigenous embroidered cloth artpiece. We bought ours from the smalled woman EVER. She almost refused our proposal to take a photo, but we wanted to remember who had crafted the new piece in our collection.
Joshua was fascinated by the colorful woven baskets, some of which we were told take up to 8 months to make. German, our taxi driver, joked it could only take 8 months if they were made by an armless woman. Nevertheless, they were beautiful and testament to the true artistry of the Panamanians.
One painful personal moment occurred during the Men’s US vs. El Salvador soccer match. In a must win situation, the US team gave up a game tying goal in stoppage time that eliminated them from qualifying for the London Olympics. My cousin is a star on that team. My family, including us, has tickets to London for the Olympics! I guess my mom won’t have to pack the jerseys anymore…We were in the process of leaving a celebratory message when we saw the score change on espn.com. My family is still in mourning for my cousin.