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Day 10 (Jun. 13):

David, Panama

Hidden Messages:

   It's 5:30a.m. and I find myself dangling in a hammock at Hostel Bambu waiting for a 7a.m. check-in. As of late, early morning arrival means an uncomfortable wait on the dingy floor of some outdoor waiting area. But, when the tired looking gentleman guarding the entrance performed a lazy wave towards the patio with a mumbled "Hamaca", I unveiled a quick smile. Spend the next 1 1/2 hours slung up in a hammock surrounded by jungle plants? Of course! As if the man even had to ask. Swaying away, I am lulled to sleep by the early morning calls of the tropical birds that fill the banana trees around the patio. I couldn't feel any better right now. This is exactly what my mind needs after a 7 hour bus ride. An overwhelming sense of peace courses through my body and I feel the tension in my muscles falling to the floor. A piece of me wishes that this hammock was my home for the next 24 hours. My eyelids grow heavy and I slowly fade into a heavy sleep.          


   Before I know it the town center is within my reach. Just a little further. It's not that far and this might be my only opportunity to check it out. I once again find myself performing the Central American shuffle; the erratic hopping and stumbling that is brought on by the endless path of unstable, dilapidated walkways. Staggering down the street, this town is riddled with shops of all sorts. Similar to every other place in this region, street vendors line the sidewalks calling out to the hungry passers-by. "Pina!" "Manzanas!" "Yo tengo patacones!" The bright colors of the fruit stands are something truly beautiful. Every time I cross on to a new block I come to a stop and take a few deep breaths of the intoxicating smells. The scent of the fresh pineapple that is artfully stacked 20 high is so sweet and powerful that it seems to be overpowering the entire town...and I'm definitely not complaining. At this point, my nose becomes my guide as I move from one glorious smell to the next. Eventually, my sense of smell leads me into the central plaza where the entire community gathers in search of local treats and simple relaxation. 

Follow Me!

   The town of David. It has a strange feel to it and I think that I need one more day to wrap my mind around it. However, it's only one day in David, no more. I felt the itching need to shirk my body's request for rest in exchange for a day of sweaty exploration. At first, I told myself that I would head down to the main road in search of a cheap lunch. However, every time that I reach that destination on the horizon I convince myself to go just a bit further. This has always been a habit of mine. Maybe it's the nature of an adventurous spirit, but I yearn to experience what is just over the horizon. The unfortunate curse of this habit is that the ultimate goal is perpetually unattainable. The end always rests just out of sight.  

   There is a lot of hustling going on around the central plaza. Young men balance themselves atop ladders washing the large windows of their storefront. Below, the shop owners gleefully sweep the walkways directing traffic into their shops. Magically, I feel like I’ve been transported back to the heyday of the 1950s American suburb. Specialty shops surround the respectful looking central plaza and the shoe stores are still the largest buildings in town. Local children dressed in their school uniforms file into the plaza for what appears to be some sort of cultural circus act. From across the street I catch a glimpse of a cafeteria style diner that is buzzing with people. Modestly named Diner #2, this is apparently the place to be for brunch as crowds of families continually pour in for an early home-style meal. If the scene of the town center wasn’t timeless enough, the prices solidified the image of David. A pile of roast beef, rice, empanadas, and a drink for $4.25. Perfect.relaxation. 

   Unfortunately, I get the feeling that this nook of a town is more complex than the homey central plaza indicates. Occasionally, the path back to the hostel leads me through back streets lined with casinos, strip clubs, and seedy night clubs. It’s as if there are multiple personalities hiding beneath the surface of David. One is safe and community oriented. A place where locals can enjoy the pleasures of their town during the day. The other is that dark passenger- to drop a Dexter reference. Once the sun goes down, this dark passenger creeps out of the shadows to feed the many curiosities of travelers looking for the "Central American experience". Shit goes down here. I just haven’t had the proper time to find it, nor do I want to at this point. I like to pretend that the timeless image of the central plaza is the only personality in David. The innocence is a refreshing change.  


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