I got hungry after a few hours of shooting pix, but each restaurant I found had buffet style, which means the food has been sitting all day with heat under it. No thanks! On the central avenida, I spotted a trio of ladies barbecuing thin slices of beef and serving them with fried plantains, so I got a plate — $2, They insisted I sit in their only chair. A guy selling cups of cold coconut milk was next to them, and he handed me a cup. Boy, was it good! 60 cents. (In Panama, currency is US dollars.) I ate the beef with my fingers and one of the ladies, black and from the Dominican Republic, sat on a box and talked to me. She was greatly amused when I told her that Central Americans and South Americans were Americanos just like US citizens. What about Canadians, she said, and I said they were Norte Americanos, just like us USA people. Big smile
Tonight I had a great dinner at the Coca-Cola Cafe: broiled Corvina (sea bass), fries as they’re meant to be, a plate of watermelon chunks, a cup of excellent cafe au lait, and a simple rice pudding that was pure genius, with hints of cinnamon and rum. Total bill: $5. There were about 50 people in the restaurant, about 3/4 local. A bunch of 20-year-old trekkers, an old black guy with a battered Panama hat and a rumpled purple suit and white shirt sitting picturesquely by the door. A huge black guy came in, the 290 lb variety. 3 old straight locals (yikes, my age!), a creole-looking family, the mother (probably grandmother) sitting regally at head of table; surfer dude in flip-flops getting take-out; 60-ish looking woman with t-shirt saying “Bebe” in sequins. Like in Costa Rica, the women wear tight clothes, regardless of their weight, comfortable with their curvy and often ample bodies. Pleasant hum of voices, no one loud, everyone cool. Not a “tourist” in sight. Wonderful place.
I met an English ex-pat on the street today, a witty guy, said he’d been all over the world, and this — Panama City — was it for him, hands-down.
Overheard at a cafe in Costa Rica a few days ago: “I was a lawyer until a few months ago. Now I’m a backpacker.”
I’ve been surprised by the level of Spanish skills of English speakers in both Costa Rica and Panama, The gringos and Germans in the jungle were all pretty fluent, and the trekkers seem to be multi-lingual. Way different from Mexico, or from the typical insulated package-trip tourist trip. I was pretty shy in Spanish until some years ago when I met an American named Pancho in Mulegé, Baja California (I suspect he was on the run from the law), and he said, don’t fall back into English. Just throw Spanish words out there. Stay in Spanish. Don’t worry if you don’t get tenses or endings right, keep at it and you’ll improve, plus people love it when you make the attempt.
I’m writing this while sitting on my bed with a nice breeze from the fan and open window. From the courtyard below, Chuck Berry singing Johnny Be Good. Hey a little lizard just ran up my wall.
Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans,
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens,
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood,
Where lived a country boy named Johnny B Good,
Who never ever learned to read or write so well,
But he could play the guitar just like ringin a bell…