First Impressions

Panama City is very humid. We arrived to find that we, and everyone else, would develop a thin layer of perspiration to wear everyday as an extra article of clothing. One of the immediate things one notices upon leaving the airport in Panama is that traffic here operates more quickly and fluidly that in the well structured and regulated setting we’re used to in the United States. Cars whiz past when able to find a foot of space and lanes are often intangible, if existent. Also, people use their horns more as a common means of communication to other drivers than in the States. It can be wild, chaotic even, but somehow everyone gets around without much evidence of frequent accidents occurring. The streets are dominated by cars, the sidewalks by people, except in a small shopping district (Cinco de Mayo) near where we live. There the street is dominated by people wandering between open store fronts with only a few small crossings for vehicle traffic. It’s a great place to observe a cross section of the working class in Panamanian culture through the multiplicity of shops, food markets (including a nearby fish market), and sidewalk stands that sell goods. Despite having a large shopping mall nearby, we find this district more interesting to traverse than the convenience of a mall is worth. Although we haven’t had as much time to explore Panama City as we will in the coming month, we have been able to go out a few times in Casco Viejo (the old district), which has developed into a tourist hotspot. We’ve mostly ventured there to enjoy a Panamanian dance hall that opens for parties every Thursday through Saturday. The dominant musical styles are Bachata, Merengue, Reggaeton, and, of course, Salsa. I’ve been taught a bit of each by our Colombian friends and coworkers, but hope to learn more, of Salsa especially, in the coming weeks. I’ve heard talk of a dance studio that offers cheap public lessons nearby and I’d love to take a few evenings to learn the dance better.

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