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Aqui... No, Aqui!


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Originally uploaded by trackbrad.
Don't worry -- we're safe! We are in a slightly less technologically advanced area of the world, plus travel takes four times as long as in the states for the same distance... and, we are planning on staying in some pretty remote areas (not busy cities), so don't freak out if we don't post every day on our site -- probably more like every 2-5 days... even when internet is "available" it is often not working or is being used by another traveler... also, when we use the word "hotel" -- please keep in mind that we're paying around $5/night. These are not the Ritz-Carlton. It's the third world, people. (or at least most of the places we're going).

On Friday (29th), we set out to explore Panama City and the more historic area, San Felipe. Wandering through a maze of fruit stands, horoscope and lottery vendors, delapidated buildings and tourist shops, we finally reached the older area in the Southern part of the country, from where we could see the Pacific ocean. As we stepped into San Felipe, a heavy-set local asked us if we needed some help, directed us and warned us there were a lot of pickpockets in a certain part of town, which he pointed to...


We then wandered around and decided we had seen enough of Panama City -- very commercial, dirty and nondescript -- and decided to hail a cab to the Canal (cabs are extremely cheap and a very common form of transport). We started walking back along the shore to the market area when two Policia kindly beckoned the two gringoes over to warn us of "Peligroso" ahead -- which was one word we picked up (RedBeards spanish is being stretched to its absolute limits) -- so we backtracked to the main road.

The cab driver who picked us up was one of the few locals that actually liked Americans, since he had worked on the Marine base when U.S. forces occupied the area. He told us stories of Ford, Carter, Bush and Clinton all visiting and of the Marines who drank too much and stole all the local women.

The Canal was one site well worth the visit in PanCity -- an amazing engineering feat, and we were fortunate to catch the last tanker ship pass through that day. The French started the canal over 150 years ago, but diseases such as Yellow Fever, Typhoid Fever and Malaria wiped out thousands and the French had to turn back... fortunately, America stepped in and finished the job at a cost of 500 million dollars and 10 years. Just as we were about to leave, we saw some 30 foot sailboats passing through the Canal (TrackBrad III?) and we caught a cab to the bus station.

Waiting in line in Central America is a cultural past-time, and we spent almost two hours in line for the bus to David, Panama before realizing that the first available bus did not leave until 6pm (it was just after 1pm) -- but we bought a ticket anyway.

While in line, Hobo met a woman who confronted him with the fury of a thousand house-wives while RedBeard was in the bano. Not understanding, he just smiled and relished the awkwardness of the moment. We now understand how minorities feel when they come to America -- the locals generally do not like to help, do not speak any english and have little patience for broken spanish. We actually learned the history of this when sitting across from a local teacher, who explained that many of the leadership in the region promoted a propaganda campaign that said "English is for traitors," therefore many never attempted to learn -- meanwhile the children of the leadership were attending U.S. schools.

Mama Rosa (the name of the lady who chewed Hobo out) eventually warmed up to us and ending up helping us figure out the bus system. We felt like American yo-yo's as Mama Rosa told us to stand on one side of the terminal, while the officials insist we stand on another side -- Mama would come over, pull us to the other side, then officials would whistle us back to the other, "Aqui!" they would yell... "No, Aqui!" said the other... everyone in the terminal stared and laughed at the only gringos in the station -- and all we could do is smile and laugh. It was about this time that we found out the 200 mile journey would take almost 10 hours. We thought they were joking. They were not.


Finally, we got on the bus and almost immediately a man in uniform stormed onboard, thrust a two day old puppy over his head in a braveheart-like manner and screamed something in Spanish. Odd.


Travel, overall, is long and tiresome and very difficult to negotiate. There are very few set schedules, no signs or directions and hardly anyone speaks English. However, RedBeards spanish has held up when it had to -- and when it wouldn't, we have been very fortunate to have a helping hand step in...

Great post! I laughed, I cried... I cringed at the not-so-subtle jab at my beloved Frenchmen.

I just have one question for you: Was the puppy as cute as Jackson?

Glad you're having a great time! I'm getting increasingly jealous...

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