I think if I could do one thing over in my life I would be a traveling English teacher. Well, it is one of those dreams. I suppose I could still be a traveling English teacher, but it would mean giving up JerryBrown and Maxi. I don't think I could do that. I think about it when the offers come in from China and other places, but then I look at those little faces and I think no.
Traveling is my passion. I love it. This year I had planned to travel for 3 months, but my stepson Alex decided to spend almost 2 months with me. It was more important for me to have that time with him, than to go gallivanting around the planet. I am supposed to start work in March. This year the contracts are very slow. I decided to take a couple of weeks. One week in Panama and one week in Miami. Miami is almost like another country. I speak more Spanish there..than in Buenos Aires.
I landed in Panama on the 9th. I started my trip in Panama City. I rented a room in an Airbnb rental with dirty switchplates. You just never know what you are actually going to get with Airbnb. I think it is great that their professional photographers can make even the worst rental look good. Good for them, not so good for those of us who have to find a rental.
I decided to rent this place for the week even though I planned to go to David for a couple of days. The cost to check bags vs the room were about equal. I have to shlep my empty suitcases to fill them up in Miami. I was so proud of myself this time. I packed almost nothing. One suitcase weighed 5 kilos and the other one 7, and that one had another suitcase inside of it! See! You can teach an old dog new tricks.
Bueno. I landed in Panama City and took a taxi to my Airbnb hosts. The thing is, that Tuesday was Carnival and they decided to go out of town. They left the keys with the building guy. It wasn't a big deal...until I wanted to get something to eat. My helpful or helpless hosts left me no information and everything was closed. Let's not forget the reminder to not "eat their food." I walked around the barrio a bunch of times trying not to get lost. I finally found the only restaurant open. Thankfully the food was excellent.
I spent my first day trying not to have heat stroke. The temperature and the humidity are the same as Buenos Aires. There is one major difference; Buenos Aires is a super green city. We have parks and trees all over the place. Panama City is a concrete jungle. It is full of skyscrapers and tall buildings. Very few parks and trees. Some people call Panama City the "Dubai of Latin America." The skyline is full of architecturally stunning buildings. The only other city that I have been to with buildings of the same type of architecture was Melbourne, Australia. There is a museum that was designed by Frank Ghery. It is colorful and interesting to look at. It is called the Biodiversity Museum. I didn't go in as the entrance is $22.00 USD. Besides being expensive I have heard from locals, that it is not that good. Few exhibits.
Panama uses the USD as its currency. They have their own currency which is called the Balboa. It is used, but mostly people use the US dollar. Panama City is not cheap. If you eat cheap, you eat junk. Well not total junk, but fried food. Plantains, rice, and fried something. If you want good food you have to spend at least $20 USD for a meal. I go to the supermarket. I usually only eat out at dinner and sometimes not even then.
So what did I do my first day? Well, when I realized walking the Costa Cintura (or the malecon) was not realistic because I would have died of heat stroke, I walked back towards the metro. I had read if you take the metro to the Cinco de Mayo station you could easily walk to Casco Viejo, which is the old part of town that has been gentrified. The metro is beautiful. It is new and very modern. It is very similar to the metro in Chile, but the stations are more modern.
I got off at Cinco de Mayo, and blondie me rises to the top, only to realize I am in the middle of a villa. (Slum) Whatever was that guy thinking who wrote on the Internet to get off at this stop. You almost have to wonder if he knew what he was talking about. Lesson #1: The Internet is not always the best source of information. I knew that. Duh. So, I did the next best thing. I stopped a taxi.
Taxis in Panama do not have meters. You have to ask the price of the ride. From my Mexico days I knew this trick. Do not get in the taxi until you agree on the price. Even if you are platinum blond with fake Raybans in the middle of a slum. So I open the door lean in and in my twisted Argentine accent ask how much to go to Casco Viejo. 2 bucks. A deal.
Casco Viejo is a part of town where people have been buying up the old buildings and renovating them. It is kind of cool. You have to be careful not to get off the beaten path..or you might find yourself in a not so good position. Like me in the villa. From Casco Viejo I walked to the Mercado de Mariscos and had an amazing lunch of cerviche and plantains. Only $4.00 USD. Yes, I know, cheap. One of the few places with cheap food that is reasonably good.
From there I stopped another taxi and decided to check out a shopping mall. Another 2 buck ride to Allbrook. The malls here are huge. This one has 700 stores. I got lost. It was like a Hollywood horror movie "Trapped in a Mall". I finally found my way out and went to look for the metro. It took 4 tries before I got the correct information. What I realized is that Panamanians are similar to Mexicans. They do not want to be rude and tell you they don't know, so they just tell you anything. Soon I was on the metro back to my barrio. Tomorrow would be my next adventure in Panama, to the city David.