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"It is the journey which makes up your life."

Monday, May 30, 2005

More Hammers

So, we got to Boquete yesterday evening, way later than planned because of a series of annoying little events like the girl at the checkout desk having run to the supermarket. Well, no big deal. Boquete is a really cute little mountain town in western Panama. Adorable. Little square, christmas lights, old trees. Big green mountains with clouds drifting around them. The hotel we are staying at is a little family owned place right next to the river, with two rooms and a little kitchen and livingroom, all painted with flowers and such. Like most houses in towns and cities, its outfitted with bars on the windows and a metal gate caging the patio and front door. Since we got there late, the family that runs it had already gone home, and left us a note and number to call for them to bring us the key. (We, at this point, was me, my mom who is down visiting, and Kelly and Melissa, two girls from the program. Kelly left this morning) So we got dinner... local panamanian food consists of rice and fried meat. Its pretty terrible. I have found both real cheese(not Costa Rican plastic) and crunchy apples in Panama, though. That almost makes up for it. Alexis, the owner, got there right as we finished, and took us over to let us into the room. He had three keyrings with maybe four keys each... and none of them opened the gate. Not one. Must have left the real keys at the house. What a pain. So he piles us all into the back of his truck, and we get a nighttime ride up the mountain to his house. Met the wife and kids, and even the dog. They were really funny, happy people, with a house that could have come right out of the suburbs, and a view of the entire valley. The wife sat us down to tea and cake, their little daughter came and gave us little candies and played with the dog and did her best to argue her way out of her homework, and it turned out Alexis knew lots of botany, so he ended up showing Kelly all over his garden telling her about plants, and bringing us out books from his biology library. It was really nice. Couldn´t find the key though. The wife came down the mountain with us too to see if she couldn´t work the keys any better. She couldn´t, of course, so they pull a hammer out of the truck, and are trying to break us in with the hammer by pounding the lock out of the gate. That wasn´t going so well either, so Alexis went around back while his wife kept trying, and we start hearing lots more banging and thunking... then eventually a giant crash, and a couple seconds later he walks out the front door and tells us now we can just come in through the back door!
Well, I think mom has been having a great time riding around in trucks and public busses and staying in hostels with me. She makes a really good travel buddy. It´s been fun to have her visit. So far, we´ve been doing a lot of hiking around Boquete. We climbed volcan Baru, found this beautiful rainforest trail called "Sendero los Quetzales" and visited a coffee farm. Before that we were in Panama city.
Panama City is as cool a city as ther ever was. It´s streched out along the coast, right next to the canal. We went to see the ruins of the original colonial city, first city founded by the spanish on the Pacific. Leveled by pirates in 1671. They had a great museum... way newer and more modern than anything in Costa Rica. Panama is a little better off in general, I think. Panama city is very modern. Skyscrapers and supermarkets and good roads. Anyway, apparently Sir Robert Morgan marched twelve hundred men across the isthsmus from the caribbean and took the city by land, loaded the entire stockpile of inka gold onto some mules, and made off with it. Crazy. Also went to see the canal. Panama has been operating the canal itself since '99, I think. They've done a good job of it, and seem really proud. There were all kinds of cargo ships heading through there. You could see them lining upout in the ocean... then they cross under the graceful Bridge of the Americas into the canal. Seeing the locks was pretty cool, though the Panamax ships that are the largest which fit through the canal were a lot smaller than I expected. I'm used to much bigger ones going in to LA or long beach harbors. The sheer volume of stuff is staggering, nonetheless. Did a little more exploring around the city, and ate at some fabulous restraunts, but Panama city was on strike while I was there. Apparently the government was trying to raise the retirement age for recieving social security payments, and raise taxes. It was an uproar... all over the radio and news. There were giant marches and rallies in the Cinco de Mayo square for three days, and most of the city went on strike. Lots of police with bullet proof vests and combat boots and semiautomatics. Our last night we tried to go out, but the play had gotten cancelled when we got to the theater... and on the way there the taxi drove through a cloud of tear gas and lots of running people. It came in all through the windows. Oh man. I never want to be tear gassed. I just got a whiff and it burns and chokes you like nothing. In general it seemed to be pretty peaceful. But big stuff is happening. I think lots of latin american governments are being pressured by the IMF to dismantle social welfare programs, so this might be from that. Corruption never helped anything either. On the bright side, they have the coolest paintings all over the public busses. Some have chrome and strobe lights, and they all play dance music. Party on the bus!!


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