Panama Makes Me Ill

April 27th, 2018

And not just because of that stupid palindrome1. It literally made me ill after ~15 hours spent in its clutches, I'm a 5'9" congestion, ghow dho jdhoo gdoo?

Those fifteen hours saw about 20km of walking, which would've been no big deal were it not for the 20kg of gear and Panama's delightful wet-oven that spends all day doing free interpretations of the weather. Thirty degrees at ninety five percent humidity seems a lot more apt for making bagels than a livable climate, but one can only spend so much time in cafes.

Speaking of which, here's Casa Sucre, in the gussied-up part of Panama City, Casco Viejo.

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Decent carrot juice and non-Costa-Rican-coffee2, if you're in the neighborhood and feel like imbibing at your imaginary grandfather's house. The Mac didn't have Oregon Trail, and that note on the piano kindly asks that you keep your children away from the instrument's crotchety old keys.

Panama City has a fairly massive littering problem, replete with the kind of odor you'd expect from a trash-happy city in a hot place on the water --I'll spare you particular description. Casco Viejo, however, is a proper tourist trap, where refuse is magically handled with care, paint flows o'er the walls afresh nightly, and pavers hold the train of your dress while laying flat before you the paths ahead.

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The tourism board apparently foresaw a lot of outdoor entertainment happening around here, though every time I've gone it's been deserted, save for the occasional shaved ice vendor, one of whom ran towards me when she saw me throwing on another layer of sunscreen. You'd be hardpressed to find anyone so grateful for something so small, and indeed, on the whole Panamanians are good-natured. They've been cooked, trashed, and hustled into something like an exhausted, stressed-out cousin of the laid-back Costa Rican, though.

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They're also living like bugs in a city with pretenses to "the Dubai of Latin America"; there's not much difference in costs of living between Panama and the US --at least, not anymore--, but the same air-conditioned bastions of North Americanity that beckon tourists to go from TGI Friday's in Cincinnati to TGI Friday's in Panama City ostensibly for the benefit of saying they've traveled have no fantasy in store for the locals. One cabbie I talked to described 14-hour stints in his totally-not-a-Tata to get bills paid after he left his job as network manager of the city's second-largest mall. He figured there had to be someone willing to pay more than $1000/mo for it. "Turns out, there isn't." He described buying gold bullion in 2012 after considering whether it was a better buy than btc. Then he was quiet for a while. He may be showing up in #eulora if the cockroaches don't eat him first.

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It's not a concrete jungle so much as a trash heap smoothed at the margins and covered in glass; a place where pretty much nobody walks --even for a few blocks--, and the one-upping edifices of US imports lid all, attempting illustration of a greatness and identity of which only regional managers and their braindead acolytes could be proud.

*** Interlude ***

Didja know Panama has a "Blockchain Embassy"?

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"What the fuck does that even mean?!" you ask. Well, it's in a strip mall, and that's all I've got.

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I go in, Wingus & Dingus are seated on stools, hunchbacked over whatever on macbooks. I ask if they'd like to trade som'fin'. Dingus can't talk to me over the wobble of his mouth. Wingus says they have a bitcoin atm. But it only sells. Except it doesn't have any bitcoin to sell yet.

"So...the market here is basically non-existant?"

"Basically, yes."

But they have t-shirts.

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I'm still not sure what these shits are for, and I'm not convinced anyone involved knows either --unless it's outright a case of "ensure anyone clueless & curious about btc who approaches one of these things gets a clear signal that it's retarded".

***

Anyway, as I was saying, Panama makes me ill. I worked for a stint as a supermarket cashier in college, and the nicest old lady working there was from Panama City, made it sound like the sort of place where parrots3 sit on your shoulders and the plantains are like mana. I should've realized there was a reason she had moved to Ohio.

And if the city somehow fails to encurmudgeon you, the airport will: 30min cap on Wifi, several gates with broken A/C (the "causeways" aka mall parts are permafrigid tho'), and plenty of the kinds of logistics problems you'd rather not think about when handing your body over for flight, from frequently changed gates to directions that include lines like "you have to go down the unlit hallway behind the Chicken Port".

Happy trails!

  1. When your name's a palindrome, people seem a lot more eager to recite others they know to you, and that Panama shit gets stuffed in there 99% of the time. Here's one that reads better backwards than forewards. !uoy kcuF .setydolgort fo edaclavac a, gniretlews a, hcnets A []
  2. By now I'm convinced this is the only distinction that really matters, did the coffee come from CR or not? []
  3. In stark contrast to its northern neighbor, Panama, or at least its capitol, are devoid of wildlife. I saw one gull cooling its feet by the water. Otherwise, they've got roaches. []

2 Responses to “Panama Makes Me Ill”

  1. BingoBoingo says:

    Irony of Ironies. Today it is... 90 degrees and the humidity while not at 95% yet is marching up as well. In the local equivalent of October, but we had days like this back in old country as well.

  2. hanbot says:

    Enjoy the coming winter. Down there the highlight was seeing folks in parkas, hats, and scarves complaining of cold at ~70f.

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