27.01.2013 - 27.01.2013
We are in a bit of a holding pattern right now, waiting for our Jeep to ship to Cartagena, Colombia. I have come to the realization that I need to dial back the making-progress part of my brain and just. chill. Not that I feel particularly goal-oriented on this adventure, but we have become accustomed to movin' on down the road on a fairly regular basis, and a pause can feel, initially, like a screeching halt.
But we are REALLY good at making the best of just about any situation (travelers must possess this trait), and are enjoying our time in Panama. Spent a few days in Panama City last week hooking up with Iowa friends, doing laundry, seeing a movie (The Impossible), and now, escaping to the Caribbean in a funky village called Portobelo. No mushrooms, to my knowledge. We are staying at a place called Octopus Gardens. It is a little hostel/b&b/boarding house that caters to divers. Nice bar/restaurant ON the water . . . we hear the surf clearly from our room, friendly folks, not much English spoken . . . just like we like it. We don't SCUBA dive, but it is interesting to watch all the processes involved in going out on and returning from a dive. Wet suits, oxygen tanks, regulators, masks, flippers. Not unlike my prior days of ultra-distance cycling. Right now, it's nice to watch all the hustle bustle while sipping coffee in the morning and drinking rum as they return in the afternoon.
Today (Sunday) we checked out a nearby beach. We were warned that it was crowded with Panamanians on the weekends. Guess what?! The warnings were correct--it was PACKED! Awesome! The parking lot was full of diablas rojas (awesome-cool decorated schoolbuses), taxis, and other vehicles. This is an example of what makes Douglas and I great partners--travel-wise and life-wise--we had a great afternoon. No whining about, "ooh, it's so crowded! the music is so loud! the people are so loud! there aren't any chaise lounges!". And on and on. Our only whine is about the trash . . . The two of us, and maybe a dude selling candy apples, were the only gringos present. And I know that other possible gringo speaks fluent, beautiful español, unlike us.
Back to the scene. This being the Caribbean side of Panama, the African influence is big. Many things are big. Most of the folks at the beach looked more like brothas and sistahs than the Panamanians of, say, Panama City or Boquete. Families are big, bootays are big (ginormous), some boobays are big, attitudes (especially sistahs') are big, stereo speakers are big . . . you get the picture.
The sand was smooth, the water was (fairly) clear, plus refreshing. What more to ask for? We set up our REI camp chairs amongst all the happy mayhem, took a few dips, read, and felt welcome. These folks knowh how to have a beach day! Ample food and beer. And ron. And seco. We ate some pescado entero (our favorite) and fried plantains. ¡Nos gusta plantainas! Is it possible to call a food that one has not experienced (on a regular basis) until age 50 a comfort food? 'Cause that's sure what plantains feel like to me.
Oh, back to the beach. We had a couple cervezas, too. The people-watching was better than many movies I have seen. As a woman, it is refreshing to see all body types having a BLAST, in all sorts of swimwear, and not being uptight about not looking like Kate Moss, Beyonce, or Daniel Craig. At what age can women have baggies of silicone/saline stuffed under their boobs? yeah . . . I don't think that applies here . . . There was a cool-dude gang of some sort that cruised up and down the beach. Backwards ball caps, soccer (futbol) jerseys, swaggers, a few chosen babes tagging along. And there were these three women in smurf-blue Lycra outfits. Refer to the above paragraph re: big. And the children. Love the comfortable-in-my-own-skin confidence that is innately instilled in them here.
Most of this comes back to what Douglas and I value and love so much about Latinos. They are open, honest (unguarded), friendly, non-judgmental, and welcoming. Stated another way, Latinos are not uptight.
Life is good.