Trip Start Jan 07, 2008
36Trip End Ongoing
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I ended up spending 2 ½ weeks in Bocas and enjoyed it quite a bit. But I will not lie, I was getting a bit bored and needed to get moving. The last few days I was there I met an interesting Cuban American guy named Pablo, who is on a similar mission to mine...exploring possibilities for re-locating to Panama. So we shared some information, (he actually has an old colleague of his that lives in Bocas) hung out a few days, and practiced our Spanish and English. It was great for me, because it forced me to step up to the plate with my Spanish...I had become muy floja( very lazy)
Eventually I made a loose plan to head towards David, about 4 hours south of Bocas to consider my next move. David is the second largest city in Panama, and I was interested in a day or two there and then easy transport connections from there to other areas. This is where the Western Highland area of Panama begins from the South, and I had heard great things in general about the area. There is a small town called Boquete about 1 hour north of David, and I decided to check it out for a day or two. It was not really in my plans to spend too much time here, but it has been a week now and I am thrilled that I made the stop. I could very easily get comfortable here and quickly, even though there are no beaches, but before I start to grow any roots, I am going to check out some of the other areas of Panama that my research has enticed me to see.
I just finished a week of Spanish classes today and I had a great teacher. I took private lessons, an indulgence I thought I needed to have, and learned a ton of stuff. Christian was an excellent teacher(Spanish by the River, Boquete). I also took a huge leap and decided to do a home stay with a family in an effort to really entrench myself in the language, and I ended up hitting the jackpot
Maria and Jeff are sixtyish and live in a huge house that sort of functions as a B & B, but they take some students in as well. My room with private bathroom was nicer than any hotel I have stayed at in months, plus I had use of this incredibly rambling and comfortable house with multiple inside and outdoor sitting areas complete with impeccable gardens. It included breakfast and dinner every day and my interaction with the extended family that came and went during the day was fabulous. They were so kind and welcoming it renewed my faith in people. It CERTAINLY left a positive impression on me and my Panamanian experience.
I cooked dinner last night for 7, New Orleans Style BBQ Shirmp, and it was a huge success. It felt good to be in the kitchen, and I was happy to be able to give Señora Maria a night off. She works hard, but never shows it. It is a good reminder to me how much patience and grace you need to have when you decide to open your house up to tourists as paying guests. It is something I have been considering for quite a while, and watching her do it was a good lesson in doing it the right way.
I decided to head out on Sunday when my week ends to check out four more areas in the country. But get this...I am not writing this location off yet. I might return, even if it is a bit cool (and sometimes outright cold) because the vibe here is so great and it is so incredibly beautiful. The air is so clean and fresh and there is an incredible mix of flora and fauna here. There are both tropical and highland environmental influences and outdoor activity, especially during this part of the year, is excellent. There is an interesting mix of people as well. Plus, the coffee is like magic. It is a MAJOR crop in this area.
So, I will poke around Panama for a bit longer, but I am not going to lie--I am tired. As glamorous as long term travel sounds, it is very exhausting. I am ready to put roots down for a bit, even if it is only for 3 - 6 months. Plus I really am ready to work and finding a unique opportunity for working "illegally" may not be as easy as it sounds. Labor is really cheap in Panama, really cheap, so you have to work hard to find the right situation. But, I am not giving up yet. I have just started to put my networking skills into play and suspect that in the not too distant future, an opportunity will present itself and I can settle in for a bit.
Keep me in mind as the nasty winters up North get you increasingly frustrated. Warmer climates are here in Panama, and I would love a visitor or two, or three....... I will check in again in a few weeks.