Panama Day 1

Casco Antiguo, where I was last night.

Yesterday afternoon I posted a message on Coachsurfers.com asking if anyone knew any bars/clubs to include in the Frommer’s guide. I got a response from a guy telling me there was a performance going on at the national theater and a thing called “art block” in Casco Antiguo and did I want to get Chinese food beforehand. Usually, with these kinds of invites I find some kind of excuse not to go because they require the monumental effort on my part of being social. I don’t like that. Well, more like I’m terrified of that — I would love to be social and outgoing. But as I am alone and lonely here in Panama, I decided to be brave, which consisted of me telling myself over and over before getting in the cab: “I am cool, interesting and fun. I am cool, interesting and fun, I am cool interesting and fun.” Not usually what cool, interesting, fun people have to tell themselves.

So here it is, the long and detailed tale of how I ended up spending my evening with a Colombian/Panamanian, an Indian guy and an Italian guy with a German accent:

I got lost, finally met the Colombian/Panamanian guy for Chinese. Cheapest Chinese ever (outside of China): 50 cents per portion. There was also a German chick there, but she was only around for about half an hour. Right off, I could tell the Colombian/Panamanian guy who invited me was pretty brilliant. He gave off one of those “diplomat kids” vibe. Well, he’s 34, so not exactly a kid, but acted like someone who’s parents were diplomats or worked for one of those international health or financial/monetary organizations. One of those people who’s so smart you feel a bit intimidated. I consider myself to be a pretty intelligent person, but some people are just on a completely different level and I could imagine him asking myself, “Why must I associate with such idiots?” I doubt he actually thought that to himself, but I couldn’t help fearing he would find me boring and unaccomplished — homie speaks 13 languages and is taking Hindi for fun. I only speak two.n But he turned out to be pretty funny and fun. Kind of reminded me of my Uncle Alex, actually. They even kind of look alike.

Well, anyway, we go to Casco Viejo after a dinner of delicious and very cheap Chinese food. That Chinese restaurant will definitely be included in the next Frommer’s guide. In Casco Viejo, there’s this thing called “art block” going on, which means there’s a lot of street art and performances going on — performance artists, musicians, artists, et cetera. Everyone is extremely excited about this cultural event. I wanted to say, “Yeah, whatever, this happens every Friday in Bogota, Colombia is fantastic,” et cetera, but I reminded myself that telling people another country is superior to there’s is not the way to make friends. Anyway, we’re watching some girl throw firesticks and we meet up with one of Colombian/Panamanain’s Coachsurfing friends who’s from India and has been in Panama for the last three months. I may actually hang out with him tonight, he was pretty cool. After checking out some ballet in the surprisingly beautiful Teatro Nacional, (I’d never seen ballet live — it was actually pretty amazing and would like to see it more often when I go back to Colombia) we run into another lone observor, an Italian guy named Norbert who grew up in the Alps in northern Italy and has a German accent. Norbert and I did a strange dance. You see, he is one of those guys who talks too close. So I’d back up, he’d move forward. I’d move to the side, he’d move with me. I’d lean on one leg to create some distance, Norbs moved in. So finally, I just accepted that some people have a differerent concept of personal space and relaxed a little.

Around 10:30, we head to a bar called Relic, located under a popular hostel in Casco Antiguo. I am not a fan of the hostel crowd: Really tanned white people, Peruvian zoomba-type pants, dreadlocks, girls with bleach blonde hair, marijuana, everyday partying, meditatation, yoga, constant hooking up with other backpackers, 40-something European guys who do not appear to notice everyone around them is 15-20 years younger and a general “cooler than thou” vibe. So I reiterate, this is not my crowd. I would rather stay at a B&B surrounded by 70 year-old grandmas and birdwatchers than stay at one of those “ultimate hostel” type hostels. But anyway, back to the bar, Relic: It’s 75% backpacker, full of bleach-blonde American and European chicks in sundresses, tall foreign guys trying to hookup with said ladies, a German-style outdoor beer garden and an inside bar area. A very popular place — the kind of place I could only enjoy after three or four rum and cokes and only if there’s extremely loud music playing in the background. But there was no music on Relic’s part and an inadequate money supply on my part, which meant no rum-induced dancing.

But anyway, the Indian guy meets his Panamanian friend there, who seemed more American than Panamanian. (Not phsycially, just his mentality). I talk to them for about 20 minutes and then Panamanian, the only one among us who appears to have an actual job, tells us he’s tired and has to get up early and do I want to go or stay. I choose go. Maybe I could have been braver and said I’d stay, force myself to mingle, but at that point, I’d been social for four hours, not an easy feat for me. So I was pretty proud of myself anyway.

That was my evening, detail by detail. I don’t know if you were so interested in the details, but now you have them.



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