Saturday, April 11, 2009
Bocas del Toro...Sun, Spanish, and a little bit of Fun
April 7th I took off for what will be a 2 and a half month Panama Spanish learning adventure. Flying to Panama is almost as easy or possibly even easier than my short bus trips from DC to NYC. The flight leaves quite early in the morning (one could even say the middle of the night) and gets into Panama City late morning leaving you with pretty much a full day to explore. The whole traveling process is quite a blur because with two hours of sleep the night before, a quick trip to the airport, and a sleeping pill, it almost feels like I dreamed that I escaped the nasty weather of Maryland and landed into paradise. Oh wait, I did. It's honestly such a short trip and goes smooth most of the time (last time my parents bags didn't make it but that didn't spoil things). My bags made it, I found a nice brand new SUV cab ride to a hostel I found in Casco Viejo, picked up Justin and my bus tickets to Bocas del Toro for the following day, and met up with Frank and Joyce (a really nice couple that live in Panama part time) to hang out for the rest of the day until Justin's flight came in later that evening. I spent a couple hours in their house watching "The Other Bolyn Girl" while munching on almonds, and some fancy cheese and crackers. Hospitality is just amazing with the people I've met here it's unbelievable.
I only had to wait an hour or so before Justin showed up and it was a happy reunion after not seeing him for two weeks. He left me the last time in my kidney infection state (103 fever and convulsing shakes was quite the change in appearance to this time around). It was sort of late when he came in so we went to bed early so we could walk around Casco Viejo and enjoy the morning. I won't go into too many details but Casco Viejo is definitely a spot in Panama City you should stay in. It was my first time and I only stayed one night but I fell in love with the beautiful French architecture and small cafes. The old buildings are getting reconstructed and it's becoming a very sought after real estate market for obvious reasons of the views of the city skyline and smaller town feel than the rest of Panama City.
We had to check out of our hostel around noon and our night bus to Bocas didn't leave until 9:30PM. Frank and Joyce left the door open for us at their house and invited us to hang out at their place and relax a bit before we had to leave. It was a very nice day of relaxing in a beautiful air conditioned home before a long trip ahead of us to the Caribbean coast. They drove us to the bus station and we had a nice dinner before we departed ways.
Once we got to the Bus Terminal it was absolute chaos. I've NEVER seen so many people in line to catch a bus in my life. I can't even tell you how long that line was. Just a ton of people standing around waiting and waiting. I'm not sure where they were going or if they were waiting to purchase a ticket. I suppose they are headed to the interior or some place for Semana Santa. After a bit of asking around, using the Spanish directions I remember from Rosetta Stone and my one week of training in Boquete we made it to the right line in the right place. Blah Blah Blah and we got to Bocas del Toro.
With no places really taking reservations it was really lucky of us to take the night bus and get into the main Bocas town super early. Justin and I got the last private room at the Hostel Mondu Taitu and the two girls that were on our trip got the last two beds in the dorm room. It's a packed town! We've kind of decided we love the Caribbean. Who wouldn't right? lol....We checked out our school and with the price and the quality of what it looks like, we've decided we're going to stay more than the two weeks planned. I saw an ad in the local newspaper for apartments to rent per month starting at $300. We found a place close to our school for $400 a month. It's a one bedroom with a good size kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and little living room. The location of the apartment is on Calle 6 and Avenida D. Basically we are two blocks away from the main street and about a 3 minutes walk from our school. It's not right on the water but it has everything we need, and for the price we each are paying $6.60 a night to live in paradise. Who says you can't be happy on the cheap? Luckily Justin is an amazing cook and with creativity we can eat well for pretty much pennies. A walk to the closest beach is about a mile away. I'm thinking about renting or buying a used bike so that we can take rides around the island and check out some other awesome beaches. There are a ton. Snorkeling is great! The water is clear! We're possibly thinking about taking a scuba course certification here since it's about $200 for a couple times out and certification. That is something I will think about after a few weeks of studying and see how my money situation is. Anyway, there's tons to do here without spending the money so until I get really bored of wandering around the beauty and studying Spanish all day I'll consider that more.
Lastly, I want to mention that we do not have internet at our apartment, which is a big let down but at the same time there are a ton of places all over town close by that have free wireless or if you buy a drink they let you use it for free so I'm sure it won't be too too much of a problem with checking e-mails and such. Our school has internet as well so that is good news. Ok, I'm going to wrap this up since it's almost dinner time and we have to grocery shop and still buy a bunch for our apartment. It's really been amazing so far how things have worked out and how great Justin and I get along. I love getting to use my Spanish around town and really look forward to classes at our school Spanish by the Sea.
I miss you all so much but honestly life can't really get much better at the moment. I hope all is well and look forward to hearing from you. And do know, you are welcome at our apartment here in Bocas! We are here until May 10th so if you can make a trip down to Panama you have a place in paradise welcoming you! Mwah....