I woke up early, almost too early - just past 6am local time. It was nice to sit on the balcony and enjoy the sunrise, and by the time I had written my Mountain Life post it wasn't even 10. So I showered briefly (it's amazing how quickly it takes to freshen up when all you really need to do is lower your core body temperature and soap up a little) and walked over to the Mercado Marisco (fish market). It's infamous, and I'm glad I went, but it was too early for my stomach to eat fish, especially when the smell was everywhere. It's a shame I didn't have a plan, because I would have loved to cook up some fresh shrimp or clams.
On the way back I stopped at La Cafe Sucre, a coffee shop on the way home. They were the friendliest group of guys, they suggested the tamale for breakfast (a Panamanian traditional dish, served on banana leaves) and their homemade juice made with carrot, orange, and pineapple. God damn, I could have drank that all day - and they even offered rum with it! Not before noon. Not today anyway.
I continued to wander, found the cultural centre again (though it may have been the city council building) and went in - a ton of local art, much of it dark. It was fascinating.
I stopped in at the Church of San Jose. I'm not religious in the least, but the beauty of churches, particularly the Spanish and Latin American churches, is something you can't ignore. This one in particular has a baroque golden altar (mahogany with a gold veneer). Legend says that it was ignored by Henry Morgan's raid in 1671 because it was painted black to disguise its actual value.
A coffee at UNIDO again, where I got chatting to some students from USA (I'm not sure where from, but one had a Whitefish Montana ski sticker on her laptop). Returned home with an EIGHT DOLLAR BOTTLE OF PANAMA RUM (it’s like it’s trying to get me in trouble) and set to work.
I’m one week in. I’m in a strange headspace - on the one hand, this city becomes more and more comfortable as the days - even the hours - go by. On the other… well, today is the first day I’ve felt a little homesick. I’m crippled by my driving, or lack thereof, so I can’t really explore anywhere without taking a taxi (cash only). It’s probably a good thing in a way, otherwise I’d be tempted to buy an old beater of a car and take this adventure on the road. Any other holiday, you hear people say that one week isn’t long enough - you just begin to hit your stride with your knowledge of the area, and you begin to recognize faces of people, even in passing. When it comes time to pack, you wish you could stay longer. Well, I won’t lie - there is a part of me that wants to head back to the clean tap water, the temperate climate, and my friends.
But I’m not about to change my flight, and the rest of the time is for getting into the guts of the place. Now that I know the scheduling of the city (sort of) I can head out to the Canal (for example) and be back before the afternoon rain (though today it was just huge rolls of thunder - that’s 100% humidity for you). I just have to make an effort to talk to strangers, to grab hold of any conversational rope that is cast out as I sit and write.
I’m also adrift in the sense of m “regular” bar. I’m happy to be a barfly and write, but it seems nowhere is open 7 days per week that isn’t Italian food. Don’t get me wrong - pizza is one of my favourite foods, but I can have pizza any night. Shit, I can even get it delivered to my front door!
Maybe it’s just the listlessness of the days, the structure. If I had some friends here as well, I’m sure these 2 weeks would have flown by. Work keeps invading my dreams too - both the GLC and La Bocca before it. Not so much the location, more the social side. I thought it was Wednesday yesterday until I realized I had written but not yet posted my Mountain Life Article - fortunately it was before 11am local time (9am PST).
This kind of turned into a downer of an entry, I apologize. Just know that if you’re reading this, I probably miss you.