Okay, before reading this, please make note: I am not a witty writer. I’m not writing to get fans or for whatever other reason people who blog, blog. I am writing this because given that I have more family than I can count and they all want to know what the hell is going on with “the one who went to Panama,” this seems to be the easiest way of keeping everyone informed.
Basically, Twan and I needed to find a job in the same country, and fast. We were pretty much over doing the long distance relationship thing (coming up on five years!) but neither of us could get work visa’s in each other’s countries. This left us no choice than to head to South America! The visa situation is much easier, but I won’t go into those boring details. So we got ourselves into Workaway, ( workaway.info) which is a site where you can plug in a location you want to go, find people who need volunteers to come and work for them in exchange for free accommodations and sometimes a meal. However, we are not totally throwing caution to the wind and jumping into just anything- we wanted to land a spot in a tour operator, that way whatever we would end up doing would look good toward Antoine’s career path (He is in tourism management and hoping to find a full time position in a tour operator.) So Antoine and I decided to give it a shot, and wrote to a few tour operators that we found in South America, both of which were located in Panama. The first one to get in touch with us was a tour company on the coast of the Pacific side of Panama, and we were very excited! We kind of jumped the gun and bought our plane tickets for Panama before it was totally set. But we were trying to make it for the end of February, which is the beginning of the dry season in Panama, therefore, a lot of people going on vacation there. That was in a month, so the plane tickets were just going up from there. We bought the tickets thinking nothing could go wrong. Welllllll..the man who said he was interested in having us come work for his tour operator kind of stopped answering our emails. We started getting nervous considering we were leaving in a week. After not answering numerous emails and phone calls, we finally started calling until we got a response. It wasn’t a great day- he told us we could not come before doing a skype interview, yet could not do it with us before Monday, the day of our departure. So, there we were, four days before departure, scrambling for a new plan. Not to mention, the day before this plan fell through, I put down a few hundred dollars to get the shots necessary to go Panama and prevent typhoid or hepatitis A, which you can contract from contaminated food or water. So here I am thinking I just totally blew a pretty good amount of money on the shots and the plane ticket.
In a frenzy, I started looking back on workaway for another host, and there happened to be another tour operator located on one of the Pearl Islands off the coast of Panama. I emailed the woman, who is American, and hoped for a response. We sent our CVs and said a few prayers. A few days later she answered saying we could come and everything was set! Minor detail, the DAY before we arrived, she told us that she could not afford to have us stay for free, that we would have to pay a monthly cost, but that if we sold any tours we could get paid a commission, and if we took people out on our own tours, we would get paid as a tour guide! We had no other option than to say yes, so we headed for the Pearl islands not knowing really what to expect.
Landing in Panama, we felt the heat as we were stepping out of the plane. 88 degrees Farenheit at 10:30 pm- A huge difference from the foot of snow and negative degrees I left back in Philadelphia. It is after all, the dry season, so it is just very, very hot, sometimes getting up to the 100’s. The dry season lasts from February until about May, then the rain season starts, which is still just as sunny and hot, but they will get sometimes 2 hours of rain a day, or longer. Good thing there are palm trees everywhere for some shade!
Our first day in Panama we spent walking around the city. There are a lot of huge buildings and hotels, very modern, and of course, there is the canal. Sadly, we didn’t find much that day in the city, but that was because we were just blindly walking around the business district, without a map. We went to the old part of the city, which was so beautiful but unfortunately abandoned-looking. Full of old beautiful colonial style buildings, but that have all fallen into disrepair. So we didn’t stay for long in that part of the city. We went searching for a little café to sit and have a drink back in the business area but didn’t find anything. In Panama city, apparently no one drinks before 5pm. Later in the night we asked the driver to show us where there was some action. He took us to the center where there were plenty of bars and people. We had delicious local cuisine and a few drinks, and turned out to be a great night! The typical food is chicken and rice, but they also eat a lot of yucca here, and a thing called a tortilla, but it is nothing like the one we know in the states, it is more like a thick fried corn fritter. Still good!