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

05.09.11

Price of beer in a bar: US$4 at an upscale club on Uruguay Avenue
Song currently stuck in my head: 1 Bird (Underworld)

I was overdue for a dental checkup and had been waiting until either San Jose, Costa Rica or Panama City, Panama to visit a clinic. Well, we only spent a few hours in San Jose (famous for legal hookers and cheap but high-quality medical and dental care), so we weren’t able to take advantage of Rush Limbaugh’s prefered socialized healthcare system. No big loss, because our experiences with Eisenmann & Eisenmann, here in Panama City, were nothing but positive. The Girlfriend, whose dental hygiene regime is far more intense than my own, was diagnosed with her first cavity. After a solid week of handwringing she went back yesterday and had it filled. Thus far everything seems fine.

I abandoned my god-knows-how-old Columbia sandals when we left Nicaragua. They were starting to come apart at the seams while tearing in places without seams and the footbed had long since worn down. At the time I bought an ill fitting pair of knock off crocs (US$3.70) whose tread began to wear down within a couple of days. Well last week I managed to upgrade to a far superior pair of US$4 knock off crocs; these might be exact matches to the pair I bought in 2007 that proved nearly indestructable. They’re comfortable, light in my pack, seemingly everlasting and easy. I almost bought a pair of these instead, but even a guy who brags about a deal he got on foam shoes has to maintain some sort of standards.

The Girlfriend made contact with some local art people and last week we were invited to a gallery opening here in the city. There were Paintings (or, perhaps materials other than paint were used to make the images, I’m really not the guy to ask… I still occasionally say “films” about stuff that’s clearly digital), wine and food with an all Spanish language talk by the artists; just about what you’d expect (and what The Girlfriend has been craving).

We’re finding it incredibly difficult to get a feel for this city on our budget and time frame. We’ve barely eaten out and we’ve only been out drinking once.  The girlfriend has a short list of items to see, but few of them would be likely to have much impact on our daily lives if we chose to settle down here.  Tomorrow we may go explore Casco Viejo, the “Old City” where they were just razing some of the slums and beginning restoration the last time I saw it.  Our tentative budget here is US$1,150 for the month, which is going to be a little tight and might get blown up to US$1,200.  Half of that is rent and rest is mostly groceries.  I still believe this city can be done cheaply (relatively, of course) and safely but I think it will take you more than a month or more than we’re spending to uncover the ways and means.  Transportation is the major concern; taxis here are cheap, but not so cheap that you can take 8 of them a day or just jump in one to get a cheap lunch without taking the “cheap” out of that lunch.  The bus system is chaotic, though with ample time I’m sure one could master it.  I lived in a major city on the East Coast of the US for a couple of months back when I was in school.  Panama City is significantly larger (over 800,000 in the city proper) and I’m trying to get the hang of it in 30 days.  In the end the question becomes “could we survive here, well fed and safely ensconced, within our monthly budget?  At this point I believe the answer is yes.  I’m typing this poolside in a nice neighborhood and our meals have been a-o-kay.  But this amount just keeps us afloat.  We could probably save some money on accommodations (hopefully I’ll have that info in my next post, definitely in the Panama City summary ) and find some cheaper options for food and entertainment, but this city temps you to spend.  We’ve been disciplined, but you feel the forgone indulgences and they can’t help but paint your level of satisfaction.  In Esteli an evening of Vegas level debauchery was not only out of the question buy also largely out of mind; here it calls to you from every billboard and magazine.

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