Panama Pandamonium. I have had a lot of inner conflict this week about my lack of blogging (sorry Britt), but half of that is due to the fact that we took a trip to Panama from Saturday to Tuesday. It was Panadamonium and I’m going to tell you why. (The other half of the week is unaccounted for… If anyone can find it let me know. Why is time flying?)
Panadamonium. This was our final trip through ISA, and we left early Saturday morning to begin our 7/8ish hour bus ride to the border of Panama. Drugged up on the provided Dramamine to prevent charter bus motion sickness, we crawled off the bus into the drizzle. Fanny-packed and knot-bun on top of my head, I didn’t enter just a different country, I entered a different world. The Border had a lot of convenience stores filled with crackers, raw meats, and $1 toothpaste (bought some). With Rihanna’s new CD, Unapologetic, bumpin in the streets, I couldn’t find a bathroom for the life of me. I was doing the gotta-go dance along with the -cant-help-but-dance-to-hiphop dance. It was hard enough not to just pop a squat as I carefully balanced walking across the plywood bridge over the river that divided Costa Rica and Panama. Eventually I paid a dollar to go in a Chinese restaurant, when they should have paid ME to use that thing. The Chinese restaurant owners, like Rihanna, were Unapologetic. I guess I’ll call it even because Chinese fortune cookies have treated me nicely throughout my life. Eventually they permitted our herd into the country of Panama, and away we went.
Panadamonium. About an hour later we arrived to the water taxi station that would transport us from the mainland to Isle Colón in Bocas Del Toro where we stayed. It was there that I met Julio, who later asked me to marry him so he could move to America. My Spanish ain’t the bomb but I know a proposal when I hear one. After respectfully declining, we got on our little boat and I dripped with both glee out of excitement/love for boat rides and dripped with water because I accidentally sat in the only seat that would get wet. We arrived to our little island and walked along the main drag to our trusty hotel, Swan’s Cay. Promotors flocked our group with flyers for that night’s happenings and what we ought to do if we wanted The Ultimate Bocas Experience. Upon arriving to trusty Swan’s Cay our friend Todd, Amanda, Abi and I threw our bags down and set off for an island jog before dinner. We were about 10 minutes in when a group of local kids playing in the street decided to run with us/race us. The children ranged from size 1 foot tall to 5 feet and squealed with delight as we ran through the streets. I squealed with delight because it was basically as magical as the scene from a movie. Super cute.
Panadamonium. There were a lot of interesting people on the island. The combination of locals with vacationers was a hilarious mix. Its funny because by day 4, I would walk down the main drag and every 30 feet I’d be waving to someone I had already met. There was a man on a bike with a pet squirrel, I two-stepped to an Elvis song with a UT graduate, chatted with Australians in Spanish (Spanish with and Australian accent… top 50 funniest moments of life), fished with locals by way of string and some free shrimp heads, gave high fives to by standers during my runs, and had a dance battle to reggaeton with the DJ in a Lakers jersey. The best part about traveling for me is the people I meet along the way, and Bocas certainly did not disappoint. We also went to a little concert at a place next to Swans Cay called the Book Bar, where the Comic Hamburgers (?? I think was their name) were performing. They were actually pretty good and weren’t even offended when I accidentally called them the “Cosmic Cheeseburgers”. They knew one country song, Wagon Wheel (typical), so they played it for us and we turned the Book Bar into a two-steppin dance hall for five minutes. Another magical moment.
Panadamonium. So really, we almost did not make it out of Panama. It was raining for about 83% of our stay which is not ideal for a four day stay on an island, but never the less it was unforgettable. Because of the weather on top of a cold front moving through all of Central America, the waves were bigger than usual. This did not stop the boat tour agency from taking us out on our tour Sunday… but maybe it should have. We loaded on to a rinkerdink 12 person boat and set off for some dolphin watching, snorkeling, and island hopping. We had to cut the trip short because it started pouring while we snorkeled and the waves were so strong they were pushing us way off shore. Amanda and I figured this out the hard way when we looked up from our masks and panicked friends were screaming our names from the dock. We saw some sweet fish, though, covered in colors I never knew existed! We loaded back into our boat, shivering and soaking, and set off for the hour long commute back to our Isle Colón. Tom Hanks may not have been present and we were each others’ “Wilson’s” instead of volleyballs, but I described this trip in an email to my parents as “the potential filming for Castaway 2,” and I am not playin yall. I love being on boats, I’m not scared of water, and seaweed doesn’t freak me out. But when you’re in the middle of the ocean, the waves are higher than your boat and crashing just before they reach you, and the group is making the decision of “which island should we swim to and meet at if we go overboard?!!?” YOU’RE GONNA GET A LITTLE SCARED. The guy driving the boat was just smiling his little head off as he drove the boat in the back and watched us get pummeled with salt water and scream at the waves, but there were times I glanced back and saw some glimpses of fear in his eyes. When we made it to land I mentally kissed the ground because my shakey legs wouldn’t let me do it in real life. There’s a video on Sami’s camera to document this, I’ll be sure to post it if or when possible.
What I learned in Panama; there are 2.5 major things. The first .5 thing is that I love making up freestyle raps. I already knew this back in high school but I had forgotten until Shina, Amanda, and I stayed up late as we laid in our beds dropping rhymes and beats. A whole thing I learned/realized is how much I love this group I’m here with from CTX. We have become a family, and we share so many unforgettable memories with each other that will always make me smile for as long as I have a memory. I’m don’t know what I’m going to do when I no longer see them each and every day. Studying, eating, traveling, living, and being with the same people all of the time has potential for some catastrophes, but we grab the reigns and ride out catastrophes together like a little boat in the middle of the Caribbean during a rainstorm. The third thing I learned was only an opportunity that came because of the rain. “Rainy day” “Clouds” and “Storms” are all similes used for bad situations and negativity, but the storms of Panama are what brought about some of my warmest memories. One of these is from Monday morning, when it was raining particularly hard, we had a long devotion as a group and Doc shared his life story. We talked about the difficult things in life, the thorns in our flesh, that God gives us to maintain focus. The rain could be seen as a thorn as it prohibited me from getting my tan on, seeing more islands, and almost capsizing. But without the “thorn” of rain we would not have had the devotion, keeping us focused on our purpose no matter what country we are visiting or living in.
“Rain is a good thing.” Luke Bryan is so profound AND he can do the Dougie (seen it with my own eyes). I have a friend who lived in Costa Rica during this “winter” and she said it rained every single day. They have two seasons here, summer and rainy. We have been hit with sunshine everyday for the first two months so we were due for some thorn-in-flesh storms to keeps us focused. Rain is a good thing in Panama, in Costa Rica, in the United States, in any country. Rain gives life, and it makes our pandemoniac sunny day schedules come to a halt and forces us to slow down. Its on rainy days that we take time to refocus so that when the pandemoniac days start back up again, we won’t drown in them.
Mark 4:41b “‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him.’”
Oh yeah…. this happened. Lol forever