Oscar M. Rodríguez

Journal to my trip to Central America (this is NOT a blog!)

Day 6, 2008.5.22 (Thu) - A sick day off

Location: Panama, Panama

Food: Cooked sobrebarriga with creole sauce and then fish with creole sauce

Not much to report today, I've been sick all day with high fevers and some heavy cold symptoms. Additionally, my back started hurting like hell from the moment I bent over a bit while dressing up in the morning. I can't stay up because of the weakness this cold is giving me, and I can't lay down because my back pain comes up. I decided to go to the doctor, who helped me discard tendon rupture, kidney stones and tumor. It simply seems like my back is paying its toll for 23 years of some heavy lack of sports and 4 days of heavy backpacking and wrong bus and boat postures. She recommended some pain management pills and lots of rest.

It's now 5 PM, but this day seems to have lasted for like 900 hours. All I can see is the roof, and I don't even want to sit up to make a writeup for this page (In fact, I wrote today's and yesterday's writeups on Friday). I don't want this pain, and the worst way of suffering pain is by focusing on it. I asked my extremely nice and hospitable hosts, who were the ones that kindly took me to the hospital and then the pharmacy to buy the stuff I'd need, to take me on a geriatric tour I could enjoy without having to get out of the car for more than a light walk, so I could get my mind off my ailments.

They took me to Casco Viejo, and old and colonial part of the city, which I can easily describe as a mixture of Bogota's La Candelaria for its architecture, and Cartagena's Ciudad Amurallada for its walls and historical atmosphere.

Now that I'm finally outside on the city to e4xplore, the first thing that strikes me is the cleanliness of the city. It's impressive how little litter is to be found on the streets and the sea. Also, this place is widely visited by foreigners, and almost half of the people you see on the streets is very likely a foreign visitor. I've seen many people from the USA, several japanese, europeans and the like. I guess many other latin americans such as myself easily pass as locals to the unwary eye.

We also went to the marina, where hundreds of yachts are parked and their captains can stop for a few days to relax and then either go back, continue or their travels or cross the canal (or any combination of those). We went and had dinner at "Mi Ranchito" for some excellent fish in creole sauce.

Another thing I've noticed abut Panama is the strong influence colombian brands have in the market. Ranging from simple groceries to restaurant chains like "El Corral" and "Crepes and Waffles", and even to textiles such as "Totto". My first impression on that, and many other exterior aspects of lifestyle on this place is that Colombia is seen as a culturally rich country with some interesting products. Colombian restaurants are clearly and proudly marked so, unlike those in the USA and Japan, which seem to hide their own identity and keep only moderate amounts of patrons at their best. This is also the case in Venezuela, where even colombian underwear is proudly known as being of good quality! Funny how little one hears about Panama in Colombia... Venezuela maybe, but definitely not Panama.

This experience has been an extremely valuable lesson on the value of hospitality. Suppose I'd gotten sick in Capurgana, or worse, in Kuna Yala... With nobody there to help me to a hospital, or even to let me lay in bed for a while without the fear of leaving my stuff unattended. Travelling alone is cool, but it's even better when you have a place to arrive to, or somebody who lives nearby who can help you, or at the very least, in a place with regular flights back home in the extreme case you have to abort your trip, which in fact has crossed my mind some times.

I'm definitely looking forward to spending the night with this infernal back pain...


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© 2007, 2008, Oscar M. Rodríguez. o-rodrig [at] rapapaing [dot] com