Foy and I have a standing invitation to friends and family plucky enough to visit us in Panama. Jamie, a friend of Foy's from her time working in Pennsylvania has taken us up on the offer.
I had mentally mapped out our route to meet Jamie at the airport and even figured in a bit of buffer time. Skipping the boring details of dysfunctional public transportation, we were about an hour late. No excuses, I should have known better and allowed more room for error.
We spent the night in Chepo, and caught the daily transport to our house the next morning. Over the course of several days at our house Jamie was introduced to all the families in our community and we walked to the nearby picturesque cascades/waterfall.
We always eat better when we have company and Foy produced several fine meals. One afternoon we made cariminlas a fried carnival food made of yuca (cassava) and collected nance (small sour fruit with a distinctive/unpleasant flavor) for chicha (sugary drink).
Foy and I sometimes talk about "couple culture". Over time couples develop a slightly skewed way of interacting and communicating. This includes, among other things, division of labor. We find that one of us has a skill for this, or prefers to do that, or just happened to do something first and so continues to do it. For example I build and make things, wash the dishes, navigate, and manage the cellphone. Foy has taken over the cooking, makes lists and calenders, and does the bulk of our networking. Somethings neither or both of us enjoy and so share, like hand washing cloths. I digress.
Foy mapped out several options and Jamie unimpressed by the sun+sand+water equation chose hiking in the temperate uplands around Volcan Baru.
We frittered away a day in Albrook Mall and took the midnight express to David. The overnight was not fun but it was effective. We avoided the expense of a hotel and shortened travel time in the bargain. Early then next morning we made our way to Cielito Sur (little southern heaven) a four room bed and breakfast north of the town Volcan. It was a little out our price range but worth it. A retired bilingual Panamanian couple run the B&B, and made us an excellent breakfast in the morning. Foy was enchanted with the bathroom, which had a tub and lots of hot water.
The next day we made our way to Cerro Punta and are staying at Los Quetzales. This is the same place we went for Thanksgiving last year, and we will be returning there for our second Peace Corps Thanksgiving this coming November. Yesterday we walked to Finca Dracula named for their Dracula Orchids. It costs two dollars to look around and ten dollars a piece for a guided tour. We were unaware of the unguided option but learned about it later to our chagrin. Despite playing the roll of foolish tourist gringos the orchid growing operation was interesting.
Today was for hiking. Foy and Jamie went out this morning while I loafed and made this post. We headed out this afternoon and hiked a short trail at Los Nubes (The Clouds) entrance to Parque Nacional de Amistad (National Park of Friendship). Tomorrow we head back to Panama City for Jamie to finish out her eleven day visit.
There are days when I feel productive and happy to be living and working in Panama. Other days are more towards the disheartening futile labor end of the spectrum. Peace Corps is definitely not a two year vacation. Other than occasionally tacking a day on to the end of required trips Foy and I have not taken vacations. Our bi-monthly trips to buy food keep us connected and sane. Over all we enjoy living in our community. Thus far we are relying solely on our Peace Corps stipends, which though sufficient for living at the level of our neighbors does not support frequent vacations. When we have a guest their vacation becomes our vacation. We are always grateful for the excuse to travel more of Panama.