When I told people I was going to South America most were surprised, with the usual response being “Really? And you’re leaving in a week? Did you tell me about this?”
This was somewhat warranted as I actually had forgotten to tell anybody. My family and close friends knew, but in my recent life there was so much other exciting drama that it become somewhat secondary in my mind. I may have completely forgotten it except that every couple days my mother would send me news articles of dangerous happenings in Panama and Colombia, which was somewhat troubling though it did serve as a helpful reminder as to where I was supposed to be going.
As such my preparations were low. While sitting in the airport I googled Panama and discovered to my surprise where it is in the world. I had for some reason thought it was in South America, wherein fact it is the squiggly bit of land that connects North and South America (which my grandma has helpfully pointed out is Central America). This explains why they needed the canal – it is way easier to go through the middle instead of all the way around. Panama is also world famous for it’s canal, which of course I had heard about, though my primary knowledge is from my grandparents who visited it once and had a great guide. We are supposed to ask for Carlos, though I suspect he may be retired by now.
Our flight to Panama was pretty smooth. I had been unable to sleep the night before our departure and so for most of the trip I was awake in a haze, the sleepless night weighing on my face like an iron helmet. Perhaps I could have slept on the second plane but for the large Panamanian gentleman that was trapped next to me. For him the seat was like a too small cage that he was trying to break free from. His arms would gradually move further and further over the armrest into my seat, until I was leaning almost into the aisle. His coat hung onto my lap and once I reached into his pocket by mistake while trying to retrieve my headphones. He was also blessed with a bladder the size of a walnut, which allowed him lots of time to get up and out of his seat. But like all difficult things, you either live through it or you die, and luckily we landed before I was suffocated in my seat.
Once we had retrieved our bags there was a brief attempt to catch the local bus into town that was thrwarted by our complete lack of Spanish and local knowledge and we ended up taking a taxi. Considering the buses looked like the war vehicles in Mad Max I wasn’t too upset about our failure.
Finally we had arrived in Panama City, which was described to us by a taxi driver as ‘The Better New York’. If he’s making this call based on climate and friendliness I think I’d have to agree! So far we’ve made friends with everyone that we’ve talked to and it’s so hot that Jesse had a sunburn before he even got off the plane. The hostel is beautiful; the main room opens up to a patio, in which a gleaming blue pool beckons, bright green ivy surrounding it like a miniature rainforest. Plants and trees fill the deck and I find myself wondering why anyone even bothers with resorts, when this alternative is here and so much cheaper… Though I must admit that sharing a dorm room with eight others may have something to do with it.
Luckily my room was great and I woke up early to began writing. My goal is to write something everyday for this trip, a sort of adventure journal that is actually entertaining to read. This first one is a bit longer, a bit clunkier because I have to introduce the concept, but like most pilot episodes, it is necessary.
Here is what you can expect. I will be writing about my adventures, the people I meet and the truths I uncover. I will transport the reader to the magical world of South America and hopefully make some of you laugh. I will meet the strange people that live all around us and write about what makes them work. I am hoping to find some answers to the big questions that drive me: “What is truly meaningful in life?” “How does one find their passion?” “What in the world should I do next in my life?” And to push past my comfort zones and experience new things.
This is also the first trip I’ve taken with Jayme and Jesse. My travels with Jayme have been mainly as a kid, so I’m looking forward to getting to know her better as an adult (yes we are adults now).
Jesse married into the family a year and half ago. We’ve had great times together but we haven’t yet had the times that really make you family – the times when you are pushed past your boundaries together, when you’re forced to learn and think and adventure. I am anticipating growing in friendship and family with him and I am grateful that we get to travel for a month.
The third member of our little troop is our friend Marissa. Marissa arrives today sometimes and due to the distance from the airport we have opted to not meet her there – i’m sure she’ll get to the airport fine though.
Marissa and I met through Jayme. They are as close to soul mates as I have ever seen. They both see the world the same – through quirky hipster glasses, though Marissa’s are much quirkier and also larger. She spends her time writing and thinking and drawing cute pictures about it. She also has a passion for helping and dreams of designing new, more radical social work programs. I’m sure we will talk more about passion and dreams as we move forward though. Most of our correspondence has been through letters as she asked me to be her pen pal some time ago. I of course was much worse at this than her, but I think this trip will be good for our pen pal relationship.
Okay, the hostel is waking up. This is the best time to try and snag a shower as everyone will be bleary eyed and hungover for at least a half hour. From here on these posts will be more ‘snapshot-esque’ than this, so look forward to that!