My first Panamanian town, David.

Walking away from the Panama/Costa Rica border with a sigh of relief, I found a bus for the closest city in Panama, David. (That’s the name of the city, I didn’t forget who I am talking to.)

In the Middle East I observed a phenomenon where people in a hot country exert/demonstrate their power and wealth by turning the air conditioner up to freezing. This is apparently true in Panama as well. I shivered my way into David (now that was an odd sentence) and stepped back out into the muggy heat with a sigh of relief. I did a lot of sighing on my first day in Panama.

It was raining as I walked through the streets of my first Panamanian town. Looked a lot like Mexico. My guide book is four years old, so most restaurants in it don’t exist, and if the hostels do, there is no guarantee they have been maintained. Such was the case with the first one I tried, from which I saw cockroaches fleeing, wiping their many hands in disgust. I went looking for the second on the list, but they’ve increased in price rather dramatically, and are upstairs from a large flashing casino, so I went looking for the third.

En route to the third I found a new one, with a pair of tourists leaving in a car at the moment. Aha! Instant Trip Advisor! I asked them in Spanish if it was a good hostel. They indicated that they don’t speak Spanish.

Me: “English””
Them: “Non. Francais?”
Me: “Non, je ne parle pas francais. Italiano?”
Them: “Ah! Italiano, si!”
They confirmed for me that the place was clean and good (I’ve forgotten too much Italian to ask about bed bugs specifically, but I’ll take them as assumed under the first two adjectives.)

The place was run by a tiny grandmother creature, who stood well back from the gate while I inquired about a room. The private rooms were way too expensive (I’m going back to the casino!) but a dorm room was $11. I talked her down to $10. Am I going to hell for bargaining with a Panamanian grandmother? Lo siento, abuelita.

I was the only person in the dorm, but  there was no fan or mosquito net and a few of those little bastards got there before me, so I wasn’t lonely. “Hey guys, where you from? Did you just fly in today? Ow, stop that.”

(Did I tell you that a mosquito in Dominical bit me right through my shirt? That sucked, then when I swatted it, it left a big blood stain on my shoulder. And it was a clean shirt, too.)

I went prowling for an early dinner, but nearly everything was closed; it was 5:30. Wild town. I found a place that served fettuccine with more butter and cheese than I have ever seen in a dish before, and that includes the butter tray. Hell, it was more butter than I’ve ever seen in a grocery store. I found myself thinking about the hippo(s) on the bus. Someone needs to come tell this part of the world about calories, and that is very much not like me to say.

I came back to the hostel to find that Abuelita didn’t tell me about the guard dogs prowling the property. And, perhaps more importantly, she didn’t tell them about me either.

Luckily my room is at the end, close to the second gate, and with the rain they didn’t hear me come in. I know they have access to this area though, as the smell quickly made clear. So it was a night with no fan, no net, and periodic wafts of fresh dog doodoo.

How long will I stay, abuelita? I think one night will do. Gracias.

Tomorrow onward to the highlands. Sounds promising…