Embassy No No’s, Beauty and Trash
12 miles from the airport to the Marriott. It was a Saturday night around 8pm, so of course we knew it would be at the height of traffic but three other important things we didn’t know were: Maps are a joke in Panama. They don’t believe in street signs and, even though the locals are quite friendly, they are not the best at giving directions. Or I guess “American” directions.
The girls started fighting and who could blame them? It had been 2 HOURS.
I know we could not have found our way if it was not for the fact that my husband speaks fluent Spanish and is great with people. The locals would hear him yell out a friendly phrase from the car and they would come over with huge smiles ready to help. I was keeping track and we asked 7 people how to get to the Marriott.
First they would laugh at my husband for saying he had a map and laugh even harder when he asked why in the world there were no street signs. Each person would get us “closer,” but not to the exact location. It was as if we were on a scavenger hunt with a warm bed as our prize.
Finally we were there and, boy, was it a beautiful hotel. The boy (he was only 20, and since I am now old, I can call him a boy) that brought up our bags saw our Book of Mormon and got incredibly excited. We are Mormon and so is he! It reminded me of when I lived in areas with no other members in my school or in the neighborhood. It IS very exciting to run into someone that is a member.
We have asked the locals where to eat almost the entire time we have been here, because that’s how you do it. You find a group of hotel employees sitting around or a group of men working at a gas station. Then you pull over and ask THEM where to eat. Most of the time they send you in a much better direction than what is listed in the hotel pamphlet or if you were to find something on your own.
However, on this night we didn’t get a firm answer and ended up finding a restaurant ourselves. The Red String Cafe in Panama is run by two beautiful women who had a menu of local, organic and fresh dishes. Too bad they hated Americans (ok, that might be very judgemental but it is how I felt that night). Listen, we know that out here the service is going to be s-l-o-w. We aren’t holding Panama restaurants up to American standards. But this place…flat out ignored us while just swooning over everyone around us. We had to order all over again because they didn’t have what was on their menu. We waited so long without them batting an eye at us that our girls fell asleep on the table. We got up and left as a couple of them laughed. So be sure that if you go to Panama, skip The Red String Cafe in Panama City.
That night the girls were so stressed out and tired, they bawled to sleep with us. I woke up to find Tyler curled up in a ball in the roll out kid bed. Boy, that would have been a fabulous picture.
When you travel to Panama you can get a list of places that the embassy tells you to try and stay away from. But once again with, you know…no maps or street signs (other than “You have entered this city” signs), we of course went through every single bad place while trying to find our way to the highway. And you know what? Boy, were they beautiful. The people…I miss being around and living around people that look so different. Skins of every shade, styles of every kind, people from different classes. It is just beautiful.
Then while stuck in one of these “No No” towns, we found a Farmers Market! Of course they probably didn’t call it that and, of course, we had to pull over and see. Beautiful. The talents that each one of us are blessed with are just beautiful.
The beach nearby was full of old tires and tons of trash. That is one of the down sides of Panama City. Boy, the buildings and people are beautiful. But everywhere in that city-in the nice spots and in the more run down spots- there are mini “landfills” and piles of trash everywhere. You will be smelling the sweet smells of a restaurant and then walk 2 more feet and be overcome with a smell of rotting trash. I did get this nice shot of the old tire beach:
Then after being lost, I had Tyler pull over in front of a bar where a lot of taxis were parked and go in and find a taxi man. We paid him to just let us follow him to the highway and to see the Panama Canal. Best $10 we have spent so far! But listen…I know the Panama Canal has a beautiful story. The Panama Canal is what makes Panama such a beautiful and diverse place with the different people, food, talents, influences, etc. But…boy is the Panama Canal itself…well, the building and observation docks…just lame. To me anyway. But maybe not to others.
So we decided we were on our way to Playa Hermosa, which is the area we are staying in the beach house. It is about 1 hour east of the city David.
Who knew this drive would be so adventurous as well? Have you ever driven 6 hours in the dark in a rainstorm in the rain forest?
Yeah I am glad Tyler was driving too.
More on that tomorrow.