Everything about arriving in Panama was a pleasant experience. From the plane ride to arriving in the closest small village to the Valley, San Miguel, I felt welcome and comfortable. San Miguel is a wonderful little village that we spend much of our time in while we’re not in the jungle. You’ll never pay more than $3.00 for a meal, cervezas are 60 cents, and life is slow and simple (for me at least). Being familiarized to this place is part of something I like to call the Countryside Orientation. This and the City Orientation are the topics of interest in this blog.
Getting oriented in the countryside, keeping in mind getting to know San Miguel, also includes spending time in the Valley. I was first introduced to the hike from town to the valley on our first day of work. The 3 mile hike is pretty strenuous, and sets a precedent on how much harder everything is in the heat and humidity. Two weeks, and you guessed it though, we are oriented! We learned basic skills with tools like the machete, some easy spanish phrases and vocabulary, and familiarized ourselves with the local culture and history. All in all there is a very calm feeling in the valley, and you can’t help but be relaxed, even while you’re dragging giant palm leaves up and down a mountain.
Orientation in the city was a polar opposite. The contrast in the forty miles that separate the Valley and Panama City is extremely high. It is a much faster paced life, and not quite as welcoming as the little village previously spoken of. No more do you get constant greetings from everyone you see, and you even have to fork out a little more cash to get a good meal. It has its pluses of course, like a new group of friends every time you visit, or there being something to do at any time of the night or day. The ability to contact your friends and family is also spectacular. Just make sure you are up to date on the taxi protocol so you don’t get ripped off, hop on a Diablo Rojo, and take the Metrobus into the city.