Hello, family and friends and random strangers reading my blog!! I hope you all are doing well :-)
I haven't written in a while, so this might be kinda long, but if you prefer, you can read it in segments and just pretend like it's several different posts...
A week ago Friday, I went with the other "youngins" at the school and a couple of our teachers to a popular open-air dance club that plays typical Latino music. Beers only cost 75 cents (awesome!) but lots of creepy old men try to dance with you (not awesome), so it's kindof a give and take...
The happy group:
Last Saturday, Bess, Laura, Loren, and I went to Isla Taboga, a little island in the Gulf of Panama that's about a 45-minute ferry ride away from Panama City. It was pretty awesome!!! Beautiful turquoise water, sandy beach, and an all-around relaxed atmosphere. The island only has 1,000-ish people, so there isn't a whole lot going on. This is the grocery store & supermarket:
It has a few basic things, but if you really want to go shopping, you probably should go to the city... There are about five restaurants on the island, and they primarily serve seafood (duh), although I didn't even eat any fish the whole time we were there...oops. This restaurant where we ate lunch had a one-woman-show (she took orders, cooked all the food by herself, then served it), so we had to wait a while, but it was yummy!
After lunch, we headed to the pretty beach to swim and tan (hey now, I can dream, can't I?) for a while. A big storm rolled in late afternoon, so we went to this Chinese restaurant/bar/club for a while, where beers cost, once again, 75 cents. Nice. They played typical Latino music, and the locals were just dancing and having a great time while it rained.
This is me at said restaurant looking wistfully at the beach in the distance...
Laura and Loren decided to go back to the City for the night, but Bess and I stayed on the island. We found a great little bed & breakfast, Cerrito Tropical, run by a really nice Canadian woman who moved to Panama a few years ago. It was comfortable and clean and even had air conditioning! I definitely recommend it :)
I love hammocks!!
Sunday morning, Bess and I decided to hike up to this cross on a giant hill overlooking the town. Loren had gone the day before, and despite his best efforts to give us proper directions (so maybe we didn't really listen, it's hard to say), we got lost a couple times on the so-called "trail." By doing this, we did get to see...
the town's trash dump!
Pretty, huh?? Ok, we did get a nice view of the ocean too...
We eventually got on the right track and panted (or rather, I panted while Bess ran ahead) our way up the steep hill to the cross. Here's a little taste of the "path":
The view from the top was definitely worth it though!! It was bee-yoo-ti-full!! This is the town in the distance:
And, of course, the cross:
After that hike, we visited the second oldest church in the western hemisphere, built in 1524:
We went back to the beach that afternoon for a bit. Lots of ships/boats hang out around the island while waiting for their turn to go through the canal:
We eventually had to take our ferry back to the heat and pollution of the city... :( All-around great weekend!
This past week hasn't been too exciting...I started the "law" portion of my program, so we've been learning some legal terms in class and talking about the Panamanian government system and laws and things like that. I've also been going with Bess (who is starting her 3rd year of law school this fall) to a law office for a few hours each day. We don't really do anything (and neither do the lawyers who work there, oddly enough), but we get to hang out and speak in Spanish about legal stuff, so I guess it's alright.
Yesterday, Loren and I went to Casco Viejo, the old Spanish colonial city built in 1671. The neighborhood is kindof interesting because some blocks are super dangerous, and then you walk over a couple blocks and find the fancy Presidential Palace...
We also wandered around some ruins of a building that was apparently destroyed in the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989... it's now covered in grafitti:
We also saw the Cathedral in the Plaza de la Independencia (where Panama declared its independence from Colombia in 1903):
Then we went to the Canal Museum, which has TONS of information about the history of Panama and the canal (all in Spanish!). It was interesting, but I wish it had less words and more pictures... :)
Last night, Panama's soccer team played the USA in Philadelphia for the Gold Cup tournament. Panama played well, but the U.S. got a penalty kick in overtime and managed to come out on top, 2-1. Loren, Bess, and I went to a bar to watch the game so we could be around the intense atmosphere of the excited Panamanians. We wanted to make it clear that we were American, so we took pictures of ourselves making faces:
Well, that's pretty much all I've got, but I'll leave you all on this note...so I still get honked/whistled/yelled at pretty much all the time when I'm just minding my own business walking down the street (it's not too often they see a white giant such as myself). A couple days ago, I got my favorite comment -- I was using my umbrella to keep the sun off me while walking, and a guy yelled out the window of his car something about how I probably shouldn't be using it because I need the sun for my pale legs. Ouch....
Hasta luego!! :-)