We have been hearing for several days that Carnival in Panama is quite an event. As I was writing our last post, Carnival began to sound like a winter storm in Michigan. The stores run out of supplies, there is no gas and traffic is at a standstill. Carnival starts officially today and ends on Tuesday night. That’s a 4 day party across the entire country. Many people here call it a drunk-fest and “no place for children”. You all can probably imagine the kind of Mardi Gras type stuff that will be going on. We understand that yesterday they turned all the lanes of the Trans American Highway to head out of the city for a period of time so that all the people could get to their weekend homes. The condo we are renting is owned by an American, but most in this building are owned by Panamanian people from Panama City who come here for vacation and weekends. It seems that the building is full now and the party here will be mild compared to elsewhere in the country. We are comparing it to our home on an inland lake in Michigan where a large percentage the properties are owned by non-residents. We only see them on the weekends and 4th of July. This week is like the 4th of July; they call it high season here. The fireworks started on Thursday night. We think it must have been some kind of kickoff celebration. Needless to say, we will be staying put here until Wednesday morning. We went out yesterday morning to pick up a few last minute supplies and driving here was like demolition derby/gridlock.
The main reason we went out yesterday was to go to our 1st meeting with our Spanish tutor, Jasmine. We were interested in learning more Spanish and Jasmine came highly recommended. Jasmine was all business, and our 1 hour session was packed full of important Spanish that we are to learn before next time. We are already finding it helpful, and are attempting to converse with one another as much in Spanish as possible. The Spanish here has a bit of its own Panama flare and most people here know a little English which gets mixed into conversation. The more we get away from the tourist area the less English speaking people we find. While we were out, we also filled the car with gas and picked up our passports from the courier. We found them stamped with our multiple entry designation. This will make customs easier, because we will be allowed to go through the line with residents. We can also enter and leave the country on a 1 way ticket. Tourists must have a return ticket when entering the country or they will not be allowed through customs at the airport or any check point at the border. Once a person gives up the tourist designation they are required to get a Panamanian drivers license. That process starts at the American Embassy in Panama City and ends at the local version of the Department of Motor Vehicles. We both have appointments at the American Embassy 1 week from Wednesday in the early morning so that we will hopefully complete the requirement and have our drivers licenses by the end of the day. The last stop of our excursion was to grab a few last minute supplies. We were literally scared to try to pull into the grocery store. The street out in front and the parking lot were gridlock. We ended up at the corner grocery by our condo. We have compared it to a 7-11, but by no stretch of the imagination is it a typical American curb store. We found it to have an ample supply of anything a person may need and fairly priced. We thought that the vegetables were even better there than the grocery store in town. We wanted to stop for lunch, however that stop was as equally frightening as the grocery store situation.
We have shared our research on the Fonda and even visited one earlier in the week. We learned that the translation for Fonda is food. These eating establishments intrigue us and we love to try them. There is one at the end of the street by our condo and it is our new favorite place to go. We can walk there and it is tasty, cheap and friendly. Our first experience with it was Wednesday. The offerings were Pollo Fritas (fried chicken) and Pollo Salsa (broiled chicken with Salsa). There was also some kind of boiled meat that we did not try, and Sopa (soup). The soup offering was Sopa de Costella (rib soup). We did not try it but others around were eating it and it looked good. All meals come with rice, beans, salad, and plaintain. Jen had the fried and I had the salsa chicken, we both had bottled water and our bill was $9.60.
After we took care of our groceries we walked down for lunch yesterday and had a similar experience. Jen again had the fried chicken and I had the Cinta Guisada (steak stewed). The steak was tender and delicious like swiss steak. We brought our own drinks and our bill was $7.50. Don’t let anyone tell you it is expensive to eat out here. You must be open to new experiences, and ready for adventure. We will try this place for breakfast soon, and let you all know how it goes.
We have been guilty of not taking many pictures. We wanted to share a couple of more photos on the roof. It is absolutely beautiful up there, and where we will be spending the majority of the next 4 days.
Our next Session with the Spanish tutor is Wednesday. Thursday we are planning to head to the Azarro Peninsula about 2-1/2 hours to the West and South. This will be our 1st official adventure excursion.
The most important thing we have learned is: me gustaria el cuenta por favor (may I have the check please). That is the simple Spanish lesson for today.
que tengas un buen sabado!
Greg and Jen