El Cajero Autimatíco
About 2 hours into the bus ride, an older woman is helped on to the bus. This normally wouldn’t be anything of interest but this woman was practically carried and dropped into her seat she was so decrepit. That and about an hour after she got on, she spontaneously burst into tears and continuously bellowed, “¿¡Porqué?!” While odd and out of the usual, I’ve seen other, more disturbing outbreaks and she was settled down by her friends that had boarded the bus with her. The odd bit was that, every 30 minutes on the dot, this woman would lose her @*!%, balling her eyes out and screaming “porqué.” It wasn’t until 5 HOURS later that she stopped, and that was only because everyone had to get off the bus in Panama City. My heart goes out to the woman, it really does. She must of gone through some serious ordeal, but it was really starting to look like my trip really was set for ruin.
Despite all the crap that happened prior to arriving to Panama City, I was pumped to be there. It reminded me a lot of Miami, which put me at ease right away. I felt like I knew where I was; somewhere familiar and comfortable. The cab to Casco Viejo, an old Panama City neighborhood full of mansions dilapidated and restored, was dirt cheap and a surprisingly pleasant ride. By no means was it good driving, but I didn’t feel the need to make an appeal to God for my soul every 30 seconds. We arrive to my hostel, which is possibly the coolest place I’ve ever been. The outside is a lime green, on the inside the place has an old school feel but is completely covered in graffiti by arguably the best artist in the city. I meet these two Kiwis who have driven all the way from Canada and are on their last week abroad. We decide to get some food and a couple beers but first decide to stop by an ATM. Still reeling from my $100 binge in Pasa Canoas, I only pull out $20 until a couple transfers come through. We all decide to call it an early night. They drove 12 hours and I bribed my way into the country, it was well deserved. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I was dreaming of adventures to the Panama Canal and a weekend island getaway.
The next morning, I was awoken, not by a blaring horn or a screeching storefront gate, but by a gentle kiss from the Panamanian sun shining through the open window; From which I had a perfect view of the Panama City skyline. Breakfast was banana pancakes that reminded me of the delightful Jack Johnson song, except I wasn’t going to cuddle up in bed on a rainy day. No, today was for exploration.
I decided the first day would be dedicated to the old rich neighborhood I was currently inhabiting. The stunning colonial mansions and churches that lined the street left me awe-struck. However, it was sobering to find that many of the mansions had yet to be restored and housed many impoverished families, who’s living room I could view from across the street through huge holes in the wall. Mansion after mansion, church after church, I took as many pictures as I could fit into my morning.
Around midday, my stomach started to growl and figured lunch at a local café would be a swell idea. I stop by the neighborhood staple Café Coca-Cola and scarf down a huge sandwich and coke that cost me all of $4. Before I restarted my explorations, I hit up the AT M. My transfers came through and now had some money in the bank to pull out. The ATM I went to last night was right across the street, so I trotted over to it. My first attempt to pull out money failed, so did my second. Weird, but maybe the machine was busted; the only other ATM was on the other side of the neighborhood, but whatever. I strolled along with out a care in the world and took some pictures while I was at it. It wasn’t until my attempt at the other ATM failed that I figured something was really wrong. I hustled back to the hostel, hopped on to one of their computers and logged onto my bank account. 3 ATM transactions and $200 had been reported as completed on my account. There’s $2 in my pocket and less than $20 of liquid money in my account. I’m broke.