Monday, March 31, 2008

The Final Farewell.....Part 1

Panama was pretty amazing…..OK let me say that again. Panama was REALLY amazing. As I mentioned before (I think), I LOVED living in a small town that required a mere 10 minute walk to reach its farthest border. I loved walking through the “downtown” and seeing someone I knew on nearly EVERY occasion. I loved the hostel by the river. I loved going to Spanish school, I loved the great coffee of the region, I loved the pancakes at Panama Roasters, I loved the climate, I loved the recreation, I loved the food, and I loved the community of people I found in this little spot in the Panamanian mountains. The only problem was that when it came time to leave, it was much easier said than done. “Do I really HAVE to leave?” That became my primary question as I anticipated my Saturday departure. And as much as I wanted to answer that with a resounding NO, I knew that there were other things on the horizon. I knew that there were new adventures to be had and many a Blog entry to be written. So as sad as it was, I left.
BUT I can’t just leave it at THAT!!! I mean, there were LOTS of things that took place between my little gastro-intestinal-adventure (last Blog entry) and my actual departure from Boquete. I thought I would mention a few of them before saying good-bye to the Panama section of the Blog. Here it goes.

Quetzal-rific: One of the things on my list of “to-do’s before leaving the area” was to Hike a very famous trail called the Quetzal Trail. For those of you “non-bird-watcher-types”, the Quetzal is just a bird that lives in this part of the world. In fact, it’s actually a pretty famous bird. I don’t really know anything about this bird, but I’m pretty sure that the word "quetzal" was originally used for just the Resplendent Quetzal, Pharomachrus mocinno, the famous long-tailed quetzal of Central America, which is the national bird of Guatemala. In fact (and don’t quote me on this) I think it still often refers to that bird specifically but now also names all the species of the genera Pharomachrus and Euptilotis………………………….but I digress. The main thing is that it’s big and colorful and hard to find in the woods. In fact, according to all of the guide books AND people in the area, as cool as the name is for the trail, the birds are RARELY seen along the Quetzal Trail. Oh well, at least I would get some exercise, right?
Anyway, one week before heading North, I rounded up a couple of friends and caught the 7AM bus out of town. After transferring to a different bus in the town of David, riding for another couple of hours, and then hiking up a road for 45 minutes or so, we found ourselves at the Southern terminus of the famous trail. The weather was perfect and we were feeling good, so we hit the trail in good spirits. Somewhere between four or five hours later, after passing through a number of different types of forests and temperate zones (i.e. woods that looked kind of different), seeing some incredible views, crossing multiple streams/rivers, swinging on vines, chatting with a film crew working on a TV show, and EVEN SEEING TWO QUETZALS, we caught a ride back into town and called it a day. The trail was spectacular, the company was great, and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. All in all, a pretty terrific day.

Hot Springification: Next on the list was something called “Los Pozos Termales”, which translates to “The Thermal Pools”. Or, to generalize things a bit more……Hot Springs. I thought Sunday sounded like the perfect time for this little endeavor, so not unlike the day before, I rounded up a couple of locals (one of which happened to have a car…..which made things MUCH easier) and headed out for yet another highly anticipated excursion. Keep in mind, I’m from Colorado…….so to me, I have a certain image in mind when someone utters those two beautiful words in unison…..HOT SPRINGS. I think of perfect natural pools atop scenic vistas……I think of crystal clear water at optimally warm temperatures…..I think of mountain beauties soaking in the natural ambiance of the……Yea Yea…I know…this one never ACTUALLY happens, but there’s always hope right? Anyway, upon arrival to “Los Pozos Termales”, it dawned on me that the literal Spanish translation may actually be much closer to “hole dug in ground filled with hot dirty water……in the woods” (or something to that effect).
So it didn’t look EXACTLY like the majestic image I had in mind. How bad could it be, right? So with that attitude, I properly treated my milky white skin, stripped down to my stylish beachwear, and faced the murky water with great determination and gusto. Maybe it would have been slightly more enjoyable if I wasn’t thinking about everything BELOW the surface that I couldn’t see……..or maybe it would have been nicer if the outside air temperature was less than 147 degrees (minus humidity, of course)…..who knows, maybe it would have been different if those mountain beauties could have filled in for the VERY LARGE Panamanian men that became my soak-mates. Maybe….maybe not. In the end, I actually had a really great time. And as I drove out of the parking area (always a relative term, of course), I had to smile at my newly acquired layer of filth and pruny digits.

Not the Best, but It Ain’t No Mullet!!!: Another thing on my list of “MUST DO’S” was to Get a haircut before catching the bus out of town. So after taking an exhaustive survey of the best “SALA De Belleza’s” in town, I decided that it was time to make friends with a nice lady named Claudia. Perhaps I’m actually a bit more vain that I would like to admit, because despite the number of times I tell myself “hey, it’s only hair….it ALWAYS grows back”, I consistently find myself feeling a bit of uneasiness upon heading to a new BARBER……OK OK….BEAUTICIAN in this case…..I know……just don’t judge me…..she came highly recommended!!! AND, because I still considered myself as having a limited Spanish vocabulary, I knew it was going to be quite the little adventure trying to describe the perfectly fashionable “DO” for my sweet weave. In anticipation of this fact, I really tried to brush up on some key hair-related words/phrases before stepping into the salon. That’s what I TRIED to do. But no matter how much I practiced, I just couldn’t imagine a scenario like:

He walked into the salon…..ruggedly handsome……mysterious.….dapper… need of a trim . The hair? Shaggy……tussled….disheveled in just the right manner. There was an air of confidence about him as he inquired about the necessity of an appointment. “Who WAS this tall drink of Gringo water”, thought Claudia, as she glanced across to the manicurist with a knowing and playful grin. “Just a little off the sides”, he said, while slowly settling into the comfort of the swiveling chair of beauty. “A little off the sides…..careful with the front……maybe introduce a few layers up top……and make sure those sideburns are even”. Claudia got to work…..a maestro….an artist with her craft.

Yea……I just couldn’t imagine that it was going to go like that. Rather, I was anticipatingsomething more along the lines of:

Claudia rolled her eyes as yet another gringo doofus stumbled uncomfortably into her salon. “….uh….horse court……uh…I mean…..Hair CUT”, he stated very loudly while, with great animation, pointing to his head repeatedly with his left index finger. “Have a seat”, Claudia said, while looking at the manicurist with a “I REALLY don’t get paid enough for this” sort of scowl. “HERE……MORE…..LONG…NO!....SHORT!!!....SHORT!!!.........CUT……THANK YOU……PLEASE!!!!” Claudia didn’t bother listening. She had long ago lost her patience with these types of clients. This guy would get whatever type of style she wanted to practice that day. This guy was at the mercy of Claudia’s whims. He had no choice. He had no power. Heck, he didn’t even have any style to begin with. ………”and you know?”, thought Claudia, while casually picking up her blades of choice, “today suddenly feels like a MULLET kind of Thursday”.

Well, the good news was that I ended up getting a pretty decent haircut for my hard earned $4 ($5 with tip….call me crazy). So maybe it wasn’t the BEST haircut I had ever gotten. And maybe there was a LITTLE bit of misunderstanding as to the AMOUNT of hair to be taken off. BUT ”at least it ain’t no mullet”, I thought to myself, as I walked back to the hostel, five dollars poorer and a WHOLE lot lighter.

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