It is Wednesday morning. Around 11:45 am, and after going through customs, we exit the airport door. I can feel the warmth breeze hitting my face and the chirping of the birds singing the mid-morning songs. The sky is overcast and there are several, very dark clouds forming in the horizon. I don’t care. We are finally in Panama City, Panama. It can rain all it wants and I would dance in the rain!!
We are tired, sleep deprived and very hungry and my brother and his son, who came to picked us up, are rushing to get through the city and the major freeway, to avoid rush hour and to make sure we do not get home too late. (About 6-8 hours of driving await us through the Pan-American highway, to reach the province of Chiriqui and the town of Volcan) where my mother lives.
The up bit “Regeton” and “Cumbia” music that makes me move my skeleton is playing everywhere; My brother’s radio, and inside other cars, buses, trucks and taxis.
We are all excited and happy to see each other. We talked and we make two stops to eat and to stretch. My daughter takes several naps in the car and I just chat and chat with my nephew and my brother.
It has been 3 years since our most recent visit and even thought I have been back to Panama on so many occasions that I cannot recount, every time I visit, I am surprised at all the development and changes taken place in this country, and yet, it is also nice to see that the Panamanian identity still remains intact, pure and rich as it has always been.
“There are flavors, smells, experiences and extraordinary, unique things in life, that are hard to describe and that an individual need to personally experience, to understand why something is so special and why something is so hard to put into words…“
And Panama, “The Land of Many Fishes” as named by the original inhabitants of this beautiful country, is definitely hard to described.
Such a marvelous, exciting, colorful, amazing, and wonderful country, full of life, passion, music, traditions, and fun, and a country that is always evolving, changing, advancing and growing…
We only spent 9 days in Panama and even thought it was a very short visit, we had fun with some family and friends that are so dear to us. (A few days to visit and 9 days where I gained about 10-20 lbs just by eating good food, traditional dishes, traditional desserts and all the fruits and vegetables people gave us as gifts.)
We slept a lot and took morning and afternoon naps often. We relaxed and chilled in the beautiful town of Volcan. (The little town sits in the outskirts of the majestic “Volcan Baru”)
Volcan is such a beautiful town. The temperature year round is between 65 to 75 degrees and sometimes it may be a few degrees lower or higher, however, it is always pleasant.
My mom made different type of teas evey day and several times a day from herbs, roots, the bark and leaves of trees.
There was always fresh fruits and vegetables either ready to harvest or someone would come visit us and bring some.
My mother had food ready to eat and enjoy throughout the day, including my favorite dishes, home-made bread and soups.
We visited a few close friends and family members and they always presented us with a delicious home-made preserve or fruits and/or veggies from their gardens.
And every time I go back home, I go back to that “normal” way of life: Giving gifts to others, sharing good food with friends, family and strangers with the mere intention of making someone feel good and not expecting anything in return: The Panamanian hospitality!! (And I missed that so much)
We visited my original home town of Boquete and many other surrounding little towns, villages and turist attractions.
I did a professional photo shoot with a very creative, young photographer, my nephew, deep in the rain forest, while nature was doing its magic and the natural rain forest was falling and created an amazing foggy and surreal scenery, and the type of scenery I grew up with everydat. I will forever remember that afternoon, through those amazing images.
My photographer’s name is Carlos Gonzalez and the link is here to go to his Instagram account. If you are ever in need of a photographer in Chiriqui, he is the guy to go to. He is very creative and he knows many amazing locations.
I bought a lottery ticket and won only $6.00 dollars, that made up the $1.50 or so I spent on that ticket. (Just shy of a number, we would have won $1000.00)
I had local wine and I bought traditional, native jewelry. So beautiful. We went for car rides and mainly we spend a lot of time together with the family, sleeping, relaxing and just at home, due to the torrential rains we had every day. (After all it was rainy season in Panama)
I watched my mom’s favorite soap opera, while drinking delicious tea or soup at night and I contemplated my mother and my uncles playing bingo.
We did a bit of shopping and found great deals in amazing chic and fashionable clothing that comes directly from Europe and all parts of the world. (Panama not only has the free duty zone in Colon, but also the largest ship container distribution center in Latin-America)
There are many malls in Panama City and throughout the country and many big grocery stores, with very big isles and where you can find almost everything and in large varieties. (There was an isle of just umbrellas, and not just any umbrellas, these umbrellas were very stylished umbrellas of different styles, colors, and sizes for both, men and women and made in different types of materials)
We had our fresh, deep fried fish and deep fried plantains in Panama City. We stayed at a really nice hotel in Panama City, the Riu Plaza. We love everything about our stay, specially the buffet style breakfast. There was an enormous, very extensive variety of food to choose from. Freshly made and so delicious, including traditional American food, fruits, veggies and several Panamanian dishes.
Our window, hotel room view was that of the magnificent Panama City at sunrise, and especially at night, it was very impressive. The hotel crew was very nice, professional and polite and offered their assistance promptly.
We loved the swimming pool, although we didn’t use it. (Most certainty next time) I specially loved the complementary margarita I received, which I was not expecting and which was so needed, at the end of a the night, after dinner and after a nice city walk around the Amador Causeway.
The hotel location is in a great area, close to everything and in the heart of Panama City. We specially love the view of the emblematic and very beautiful building, most well known as “El Tornillo” which is at close proximity to the Riu Plaza. (For an additional charge, arrangements can be make, for reliable and fast taxi transportation to and from the hotel to the Tocumen national airport, which was very convenient for us, and one of the reasons we stayed at this particular hotel)
The room we stayed in was as shown on the photos displayed on the website and the bed was very comfortable, the decoration very beautiful and we loved the high speed wi-fi included with our hotel booking, of which, we did good use of, for sure. (We are already planning our next trip to Panama and we will be considering, staying in this hotel again.)
And so as much as I tried to describe what Panama is like, I cannot. You have to experience it yourself. What I can tell you is that there is always something going on and something to celebrate. Everyday in the republic of Panama there are either festivals, carnivals and fairs going on and there is always a celebration taking place.
Being in Panama City, specially at night, its like being in New York City, with the many skycrapers all around and with so many people and cars moving about and creating this amazing view. There are many things to do and places to visit, including great restaurants and casinos.
In the “interior” which the central provinces of Panama are called, there is a different feeling of slow pace living, and more of a traditional, Panamanian way of living.
There is abundance of color in Panama, both, in flora and fauna and in traditional “fashion”. From the “polleras” to the “Molas” (The beautiful, amazing, unique and colorful art of the Kuna people) To the beautiful colorful houses everwhere, and the outfits of many indigenous groups.
There are fruits and plants and vegetables and flowers and roots and nuts and herbs that can be planted, harvested, and consume all year long. There is a variety of them and it seems like every month, there is a very specific fruits that become available and in abundance. (You can grow pretty much everything in Panama, specially in the fertile lands of “Volcan” and “Tierras Altas”)
Panameniam people in general, and specially in the provinces, are very friendly, very nice and they have a great sense of humor.
And one of the best complements I received recently is from my daughter. She recognized the great sense of humor my family has and she told me it is great and she told me, she understand why I am so funny some times.
I am glad, my Panamanian identity remains intact despite of having been living outside of the country for so many years. Being friendly, kind, nice and generous, just because, is a legacy, I will always carry with me and I will always act upon, so thank you Panama.
I love you, land of many fishes!!