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Current Location: Tourist Cabin, 10’s of thousands of feet above… Mexico?

05.16.11

Price of beer on this plane: US$5
Song currently stuck in my head: Fly (Sugar Ray) (Yeah, really)

With a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee and a seat at gate 28 in Tocumen, it’s easy to forget you’re in the developing world. Like many nations, in Panama you literally exit through the gift shop, duty free luxury goods line both sides of the only hallway out of the country by air. In Ecuador (Guayaquil) they drop you directly out of customs and into a large shop with no clear indication which way to proceed.

I took the bus here for 25 cents instead of the taxi for 20 dollars (assuming you’re treated fairly; otherwise it goes up from there). In all I’ll ride in 2 planes, 2 trains (not counting airport rail) 1 bus and 1 car before I get where I’m going. On the bus in the developing world I try to keep my dummy wallet in the pocket between me and whoever I’m sharing the seat with; it’s not always possible, but I act on it as preference. I also just keep it more accessible than my real wallet in general(Neither of these are “real wallets”, by the way, they’re both a stack of Credit and ATM cards with some cash rubber banded to them. They’re light weight and the rubber strips tend to keep them from falling or being lifted out of your pockets.) 100mg of Modafinil is keeping the restlessness in check and makes being awake at least bearable; I left at 5am and this is going to be a long day.

I think I inadvertently blew off Panamanian Customs on the way out; they guy at security asked me something in Spanish, I explained, also in Spanish, that I didn’t understand, he went “meh” and waved me through. Somewhere over, fuck, Southern Mexico(?) I realized that I still have my custom form and no exit stamp. This probably won’t matter. Typically Panamanian, a minimum amount of effort was expended and that effort was almost immediately abandoned at the first sign of difficulty.

When you’re a foreigner with only a limp grasp of the language it’s easy to become almost entirely deindividualized. Being suddenly locked into focus is jarring, to say the least, but that’s what happens when you realize that no one is writing you off as the odd foreigner and that people know what you’re saying. The ability to comprehend the local customs obligates you to them, in most peoples eyes, but when you’re weird enough they write you a pass. For the last 10 months I’ve been weird enough; a clear outsider. Over the course of 10 minutes this changed entirely.

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