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Current location: Poolside, anonymous guest house, Panama City, Panama

04.18.11

Price of beer in a bar: Dunno.  US$1 for a cold 12 ounce bottle at the hostel, US$0.40 for the same bottle at a convenience store and US$2 for it at a slightly upscale restaurant.
Song currently stuck in my head: Get Some (Lykke Li)

We grabbed a Ticabus in Granada at 7am, crossed the Nicaraguan/Costa Rican Border, made it to San Jose, Costa Rica around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, then sat around until 11pm when our next bus left. I put in my ear plugs, popped a Valerian gel tab and slept surprisingly well until about 5am when we made the Costa Rican/Panamanian border. We sat/stood around for 3 hours in all, chunks of this span punctuated by momentary interactions with border officials. “180 Days, No, I haven’t been in close contact with any livestock,” etc. It was 4 in the afternoon before we made Panama City, pulling into Albrook bus station/insanely huge mall. That’s an eye opener for you; I’ve been in Nicaragua buying produce off of street carts with wooden wheels for the last, well, god knows how many months. Now I see Domino’s Pizza, KFC, Wing City, Popeyes, Mailboxes Etc, and Gouda cheese at the grocery. Calling it culture shock is putting it mildly; more like culture electro-convulsion therapy. The girlfriend read somewhere that PC is “Miami, but with more English.” Well put. Since we’re on the dollar here, we even have “Everything’s A Dollar” stores, though perhaps not by that exact name.

From the bus station we landed at Hostel Mamallena with a private room/shared bath arrangement for US$29.50/night. I can recommend it. The crowd was diverse, the rooms were stuffy but the AC made that a non-issue and the common areas were large and comfortable. A crowd of 20 year old Canadians took to calling me Charlie because they thought I looked like Charlie Sheen. I’ve heard worse.

Panama City is a real budget killer. We didn’t have much hope of finding a furnished short term apartment for under US$1,000, so we’re setup in a guest-house where we’ve rented our room for the month. Even that is costing us US$600 and resulted from heavy searching and relentless walking; US$3.50 knock off crocs aren’t as appropriate for tearing up the poorly maintained city sidewalks as one might hope. I had a few leads from some exats who had set up shop in this town in the past, but in the end the place we chose came right off of craigslist.

The house in which we’re staying has two kitchens, one of them gloriously overstocked with gadgetry. There’s a salad spinner, a Cuisinart, two toaster ovens, a microwave, stove, oven, some kind of plastic resealer, what might be a steamer, a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a blender and doubtlessly numerous items I’ve yet to uncover. Many of the places we’ve stayed up until now didn’t even have ovens. I didn’t really care about the ovens, but I am excited to have a slow cooker and some of the other tools.

Before we left the vermin suddenly started coming out of the woodwork in Nicaragua; we kept finding dead roaches (though I’ve found life/death seems to be more of a spectrum than a dichotomy, really, when speaking of roaches) near our doors and in a couple of other areas. Perhaps the city fumigated (it happens), or maybe it was our neighbor, but after barely seeing any for 3 weeks we started find 1, then 2, then 3 or more a day that had crawled into the open to expire. Also, I finally got a look at the “mouse” that the girlfriend had spotted; I’m going to go ahead and say large rat. I need to email the landlord to let him know; he’s responsive and I have no doubt he’ll have it dealt with promptly.

Speaking of our place in Granada, every time I used to round the corner to our house I expected to hear a whistle or a yell, not at me but to from a lookout to people who had broken into our home in our absence. This expectation is entirely a creation of own paranoia and innate human xenophobia and not to any actual threat in evidence. The landlord said the place has only been broken into once in the last 3 years and that was when someone left and didn’t lock the door appropriately. In the end we never had any security issues at all.

BTW, eat your heart out, Anthony Bourdain. We followed this guy’s rec for El Garaje in Granada and are glad we did.

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