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- Los Cuatro Tulipanes is Matt's apartment rentals in the historic district of Casco Viejo
- Las Clementinas is Matt's recommended 6-room boutique hotel in Panama City, Panama
- The Canal House is Matt's favorite restored guesthouse in the historic district of Panama City, Panama
- Panama Vacation Rentals is Matt's go-to place to find rentals in Panama
- United Country - Panama is Matt’s favorite agency to find premier properties all over Panama
“Someone died in there yesterday.” It’s not what you want to hear when entering a parking garage in Panama. Hell, it’s not what you want to hear anywhere. To make matters worse, the security man who said it hadn’t qualified the comment with any useful suffix. “Someone died in there…from old age,” he might have said or, “someone died in there…when they accidentally tried to swallow a rock.” No, there was no telling why the death occurred.
...adopt the grief the same way some teenagers might baby-sit before they plan on getting pregnant.
“Look here, I have photo,” the man said, and with great intrigue, I watched as he scrolled through his cell phone and then showed me the image of a middle aged man in his car sitting upright, with a subtle and peaceful look on his face as if he had just dosed off listening to Beethoven or something. This is not to say he looked to be alive. however. He was definitely, discernibly dead.
I have seen a number of dead bodies in Panama. Two were in a hospital, one was on the side of the street partially covered by this blue peewee tarp, and one was lying in a doorway in Casco Viejo (let’s just leave it at that). But the photo of this guy who apparently poisoned himself with carbon monoxide. His briefcase was there, his tie was perfect, he looked…really great. So at ease, without any gunshots or wounds or any liquids flowing from any of his many orifices. “If you ask me,” I told the security man, “that’s the way to go.”
I try to take it upon myself, when hearing about a death or a serious accident, to find out as much as is respectfully possible, then to adopt the grief the same way some teenagers might baby-sit before they plan on getting pregnant. I like to think of it as the best of both worlds: the educational pain of losing someone paired with the liberty of never knowing who the fuck they were. I find that this helps me live fully in Panama. I find that this helps me seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future.
If you are going to check out, you should try and pencil about a week into your schedule to do the following things. You should start with meeting a beautiful Panamanian. If you’re a foreigner, chances are you’ll have no problem attracting your desired mate. Julio the gardener, Salma Hayek, Don Quitoje. Whoever your voluptuous Latin fantasy crush is, you will find their clone in Panama. And you will make love to them, vigorously. ADD YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE IN PANAMA WORTH LIVING FOR BELOW IN THE COMMENT SECTION.
Second, you must drink rum Abuelo on a deserted beach, preferably directly from the bottle. Fly or drive or hitchhike or moonwalk to a white sand beach in San Blas, Boca Chica, Bocas del Toro, Isla Grande, Costa Abajo, Isla Iguana…etc. Third, you must eat ceviche and/or pescado frito made from corvina that has been caught no longer than thirty minutes prior and you must douse said seabass in aji chombo hot sauce.
The fourth thing in Panama worth living for is the perfect wave. If you have never surfed before, try it for twenty minutes and you will understand. Playa Venado, Santa Catalina, Punch Beach. Any of these beaches will suffice. Being out on the water at sunrise or sunset, whether you are good at surfing or you suck, is a religious experience.
Fifth, you must experience a culeco, the Panamanian word for “semi-biblical water parade during Carnaval.” If you can’t make it this time of year, find your way to a local matanza (ie. giant cow slaughter and ensuing barbeque) almost any weekend out in the countryside. The warmth, tradition, and culture you will find here is profound.
Sixth, and perhaps most sphinx-like: make a difference. Panama is a small country. It’s a country with a lot of inequality. A lot of opportunity. A lot of problems. A lot of hope. Giving something back and leaving a stamp – even if a tiny one – is more valuable and fulfilling than any monetary donation I’ve ever made. Connecting with a local, volunteering, helping to preserve or patronize a bit of culture that might otherwise whither away: these are the things – not the towers or the discos or the cars or the weather – that make lifestyles in Panama truly great.
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