Day 9 (Jun. 12):
Panama City, Panama
Its official. My work here in Panama City is done...for now. There are no more excuses that I can come up with to drag out my stay here any longer. It's a strange feeling. Walking down these streets. The same streets that not so long ago seemed so foreign to me now feel somewhat comforting. Today I've been hustling around the city taking care of the final bits of business that sorrowfully signal the end of my stay in this city. A long meeting at the Smithsonian Institute of Tropical Research and over to the Instituto Nacional de Cultura to pick-up my final Panamanian authorizations to formally conduct research at the borders. After a hot, long day hoofing it through the dense Panamanian air I actually felt that refreshing feeling of returning to my part of the city, it was that sense of comfort. But, what is it that creates this feeling? Is it a true connection with the community? Or, is it simply the body's way of reacting to a location that seems familiar?
So, in the end, maybe the feeling of comfort is the result of simple familiarity? All of these aspects have come together for me to create a false sense of routine, a certain kind of psuedo-lifestyle. I go about my daily routine, but it's not really mine. I'm just killing time until I get the call to move to my next location. This is an unfortunate phrase that I continue to mutter to myself throughout the course of this trip. For some reason, I'm afraid that comfort is a bad thing right now. There is still a lot of work and travel to be done and I fear that settling in to that sense of comfort will just make it more difficult to re-pack that giant red hiking bag. Will I be subjected to another deadly dose of shock once I reload that pack and hit the road? I sure as hell hope not. Panama City has treated me well and I feel well accustomed to the way that life moves in this part of Central America. I could easily remain in this city for the next 2 1/2 weeks, but that road beckons. Tomorrow, its a 7 hour bus ride to David for another meeting at the University of Chiriqui followed by a Friday morning journey through that less traveled border of Guabito. The trek north begins tomorrow and I stare at the Panama City skyline for one last time. Its been great here, but it's time to get moving. We will see each other again some time down the road.
I feel as if I have a personal connection with this area of the city now. In the morning, it's breakfast at the Hotel CentroAmericano; the best $4 breakfast on Avenida Justo Arosemana. Coffee, fruit, bacon, eggs, and toast. You can't get better than this at 7a.m.. During the day, I join the crowds that huddle around the rusty, multi-colored food carts where the meal options are endless. Lunch here is a community activity as hungry construction workers, students, and businessmen straddle the tightly stationed bar stools for some real comfort food. These are the components that provide me with that sense of comfort. I move about the streets without thought, I know these restaurants and those kioskos. The people here don't know me by name, but I feel as if they recognize me as that gringo that's been hanging around for a while.