This Bus is Hot, Cramped and Terrible, but it’s Better Than Being Sold By my Dad in Afghanistan!!!

Hungover and discombobulated with my heart still bumping to the beat of a DJ Tiesto concert the night before, I threw a book and some clothes in a small pack and walked under the oppressive tropical sun to my friend’s house.  We had a four day weekend from work so we decided to get out of Panama City for an adventure.  Since there is pretty much only one main road that spans the length of Panama it’s not too tricky to travel, you just pick a way and go.  I’d heard from some locals the Azuero Peninsula had some nice little towns and the World Surf Championships were held there a few months prior so we dragged our half alive bodies to the bus station and bought a ticket to a random city in the area.  On such a cramped bus seat I was literally pressed up against the bus window trying to suppress feelings of carsickness amplified by a hangover.  As I tried unsuccessfully to squirm my body into a comfortable position I generated a new strategy of coping with uncomfortable travel that genuinely works better than anything else I’ve ever tried. I’m currently reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini the dude who wrote Kite Runner.  While being an incredibly well written and awesome book this story is not a happy one.  Reading about the unreal difficulty and sadness of the Afghani women in the book made me realize that my current situation of simply being hot, cramped and hungover on a small, bumpy bus is really not bad at all.  The next time I considered leaning over to my buddy and exclaiming “Dude, this bus sucks sooo bad” I simply thought about the girl in Afghanistan being sold off by her dad at age 15 to an old, sweaty, fat man and suddenly felt stupid for complaining….  So next time you’ve got a 12 hour bus ride or a long flight ahead of you simply chose a story about someone whose life is much worse than your own and whenever you are feeling annoyed or uncomfortable, read their story to remind yourself that life isn’t so bad after all!

Eventually the “not-so-terrible after all” bus journey ended in a small city called Las Tablas.  A cooler, slow paced city where foreigners just came up to us on the street to ask where we were from, this town was a completely different world than the hot, loud urban sprawl of Panama City.  With dinner less than $2 and $0.60 beers in a bar, the price alone made this place worth a visit.  We met a local dude at a bar and I found his slower Spanish much easier to understand than the people of Panama City.  We jokingly told him we wanted to drink one beer in every bar of Las Tablas, but sarcasm is something that is easily lost in translation so we were literally taken on a hilarious, local pub crawl of the entire city! For a small town on a Thursday it seemed that everyone was out and about well into the night and we filled our bellies with beer for a laughably cheap price discussing Panamanian baseball. The kindness of strangers, ease of conversing with locals and overall good vibes of the city were tremendous, so much so that I’m considering moving to this town after my time in Panama City.  My job ends in late December so a move like this could be a lonely one as I would be spending Christmas, New Years and possibly my Birthday in a town where I know not a soul, but I’ve seen apartments for rent around $100 a month and I would be forced to practice my Spanish to do virtually anything so maybe it’s worth it?  At least it’s probably better than Afghanistan…

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2 thoughts on “This Bus is Hot, Cramped and Terrible, but it’s Better Than Being Sold By my Dad in Afghanistan!!!

  1. I had never considered reading or watching a more difficult story when you are on a terrible travel day. I suppose you can’t help but put it all in perspective. I usually just try to not look at the clock. Sounds like you find your piece of paradise! I could handle $100 rents compared to those in Denver here.

  2. I highly recommend living in a smaller place in Panama. I retired out in Chiriqui outside of David and away from the Gringolandia of Boquete. I’ve been “in country” now for over a year and a half. I’ve spent a year of that time house-sitting in Potrerillos Arriba which is WAY smaller than Las Tablas, about 1,500 people and when the owners of the house here came down last year I rented a place in the even SMALLER pueblo of Boqueron. I LOVED it there. I rented a small house at the end of a dead end street, completely furnished, alongside a small river for $200/month. I’m moving back there on the 18th of this month (November) and have made an agreement with the owners of the house for $175/month and I take care of the small yard.

    I’ve only passed THROUGH Las Tablas on my way to and from Pedasi but I thought it might be worth going back to when I was doing my exploration visits to Panama looking for where to settle when I got my Pensionado and moved here for good. I really liked the area around Chitre and Los Santos and that was topping the list until I visited the area around David.

    The experience of living in a smaller community really gives you the true feeling of Panama. PC is just ANOTHER big city. I lived outside of Miami for many years and to me it’s the same thing as PC. In Boqueron, however I got to know the people of Panama. None of my neighbors speak English so I’m forced to muddle through in Spanish which is a good thing. One of me neighbors is really into cock-fighting in a big way. He has 30 (that’s right, THIRTY) fighting cocks and while I’ve yet to go to an actual fight it’s extremely interesting visiting his house and watching the training and attention he gives his birds. From time to time he tests them out in sparring sessions, sans the barbs they wear in the real fights. There’s an InfoPlaza about a click from the house where I can take my computer and log onto their wi-fi connection and it’s free. I’ve gotten to know the girls who run the place as well as the lady who runs the Post Office and several of the people who live along the main road as I walk back and forth. Though there are gringos in the outlying areas of the pueblo I’m the ONLY one in the pueblo itself which is a unique experience and I hope I’m leaving them with a good feeling for gringos.

    I urge you to find a place in a smaller community here in the country and enjoy those cheap, cold beers with the locals.

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