I only spent a total of 9 days between Costa Rica and Panama which is not really enough time to get to know a country. I’ve mulled over how to talk about two countries that I barely know and instead have decided to present to you a quick round up of those 9 days…
- Let’s start with our layover in Mexico City, where a security guard at the airport assists me with finding my terminal, but in the end, asks for a tip. I am reminded that nothing in life is free.
- My friend, Paisley and I arrive at our hostel in San Jose, Costa Rica at 5 am and collapse on the couches until check-in time. At 8 am the cleaning lady pities us and offers a clean bed to sleep in instead. Lo and behold we are at the wrong hostel.
- Fed up with the city life of San Jose, we search for a local waterfall called Los Chorros. No one has heard of it. After bus, after bus, after bus, we end up 2 hours out of the city. After negotiating a ride in a taxi with my best smile, we are dropped off in front of a sign that says “Entrance to Los Chorros”. The entrance is but a large grassy area, where an old man sits with no shirt on and a large walking stick. Imagine Gandalf with no robes. We discuss the tragic earthquake of Mexico, but I can’t understand his accent. When parting ways he shows us the Costa Rican greeting/goodbye, but sucks on our necks instead of kissing us on the cheeks. We are each left with a big puddle of slobber on our necks.
- The shirtless, beardy old man chases us over the hill, yelling something in his mumbled Spanish and shooing us in the direction of the waterfall.
- We head north to Puerto Viejo with the expectation of passing through to get to Panama. We extend our stay so that we can celebrate our host’s friend, Johnny’s birthday. Johnny and Alex are a pair and make us dinner using ackee, a fruit that is poisonous unless prepared right. We live life on the edge and enjoy our dinner. Then we watch Johnny and Alex drunkenly throw fire for the tourists of Puerto Viejo.
- We ride bikes, see monkeys glaring at us and enjoy the beach. I search in vain for a sloth. I open a beer bottle with a piece of driftwood, like a gangsta.
- We drink with the locals where my friend is hit on by a “20-year-old.” Young men in Costa Rica like to hit on older women. The 20-year-old is told that if he wants to lie about his age at least pretend he’s 25. He immediately changes his age to 25.
- We get on a bus with no AC to explore the island Bocas Del Toro in Panama. We cross the border and get asked for a tip again when someone “helps” us through the process (he followed us and waited for us at every checkpoint).
- Bocas Del Toro is similar to Puerto Viejo, but the Spanish spoken has a bit more of a Jamaican accent and I am in love with the way they speak. Panamanian men gather at the park and discuss life while they sit on a bench watching the world pass by. I see starfish. Paisley gets a fever. We rest.
- While leaving the island young boys hit on us again. One of them plays with Paisley’s hair and she doesn’t notice. I don’t tell her. I drop my sunglasses in the river. Karma.
- I get a yellow fever shot for $5 in Panama City and hike up a hill to get a full view of the city and the Panama Canal. I finally see a sloth. It is dead.
- A Panamanian confesses his love to me after knowing me 24 hours. I forget my flip-flops and my 4 TB hard drive.
- At the airport, TSA takes everything out of my bag because I try to sneak my sunscreen lotion and bug spray. They find something else. We try to use the rest of the bug spray while standing at security. TSA shakes their heads and scolds us. We are the last ones on the plane to Colombia.
This is such a quick round-up, but looking back on these 9 days I know I had a lot of fun. Maybe I didn’t do “adventurous” activities like zip lining through the jungle or getting wasted every night, but I was with my best friend who had never traveled out of the country and we had a blast just experiencing life and the quirky events that were thrown at us. I know that in years to come we will look back and laugh about these things that happened to us and maybe no one will understand what we are laughing at, but it doesn’t matter because we know we had fun and that’s all that matters.
Oh, were you looking for advice about these two countries? Sorry, my 9 days of experience will help zip, zilch, zero. Except don’t call a Panamanian a “raka” and if a boy tells you he’s 25, he’s not.