Monday, December 16, 2013

For the Birds Had Double Meaning

Our first full day in Panama City and it is raining. No skip that comment, because raining doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. If you have ever seen photos of Niagara, Isuzu, or Victoria Falls, you will have an idea of how hard it was coming down. Our accommodation is on the 6th floor of an apartment building with an oversized covered balcony and metal guardrails to prevent anyone from taking a flying leap. There is a tall metal table on the balcony with high chairs where I perch to write. We will be here until the 22nd. Watching people walk by on the street below as the rain pounds on them is sadistically humorous. Those silly enough to risk walking, get pounded into the cement after five steps. David, the apartment owner said this happens daily. At one point, there was thunder so loud, I thought someone broke the sound barrier immediately next to me. 

Still on the balcony, to the left, there are two hummingbird feeders hanging, while on the far right is a tray of birdseed for the parrots set on the ledge. As I am writing this, there are about seven hummingbirds vying for the four spouts attached to the one feeder that has sugar water. They range in color from dull brown, most likely females, to bright blue and striking green. Even the brown ones have the most glorious burst of yellow on the underside of their tail feathers. Busy, busy, they try to push one another off the feeder, like greedy children wanting a turn at a toy. 

As I am engrossed in my task at hand, I hear cacophonous outburst that are too loud for the hummingbirds. Looking up, I witnessed a pandemonium of small green parrots all surrounding the bowl presumably with the seeds. Some are pacing around the bowl, many others are perched all over the railing, yet all of them are pitching a fit. Later, I learned the bowl was empty with only hulls left. As I moved, they all took off in unison, so with a quick audit as they flew as a group, I counted about 40. What a sight to see.

This is an interesting place. We thought our bathroom was en suite, but it is right outside our bedroom door into the bathroom. There are other guest bedrooms, so we have to wear something to sneak out and back in during the night. When we looked in the bathroom, there were no towels and no toilet paper, which we thought strange. Next to the toilet was a hose connected to hot and cold water valves. Since this is standard in Malaysia and other parts of Asia, we were not unaccustomed to this, but even in other places, there was a paper first rule. We found towels on a shelf in the laundry area and took some without asking.

When I ran into David, I asked if it was okay to put paper into the toilet. Rather than say yes or no, he said “Well, I do it.” I took that as permission, but there was nothing forthcoming about providing any. Add that to the shopping list along with a bar of soap. I brought liquid soap, but Ron prefers a bar. When I asked about using the coffee maker, he showed me where the filters were, but then said “This is our coffee here.” Coffee goes on the shopping list. Last night he told us we should ask all of our questions at that time, since he cannot be available for us every time we need him. That's for the birds. I cannot imagine telling one of our B and B guests something like that.

Between rainstorms, we did do some wandering to explore the neighborhood and the city. Panama City is one of skyscrapers. Some are very boxy, but the majority has stimulating and eye catching designs. However, the downtown area is filled with them and they extend beyond the city. There is a comfort level here in that many things are in both Spanish and English, though we are trying to retrieve our Spanish from the recesses of our minds where they it has been in cold storage since last year when in Ecuador.

After having read that Panama is so inexpensive, I was a bit taken aback by the prices in restaurants. We stopped for lunch is a smallish restaurant where there were many locals eating. Our entrées were over $10 each, so we dropped close to $35 for a lunch. Knowing this was impossible to do on a daily basis, we hunted down a grocery store. There are plenty of small convenience stores, which incidentally seem to be run by or serviced by Asians. Assuming the prices at these stores would be exorbitant, we went to the major supermarket. 

Heaven, I’m in heaven! There were more ‘US American’ products on the shelves in this store then I could sample in a month of Sundays. What stopped me in my tracks and it was a long fall from heaven, were the prices. It was not just for the imported goods, but everything. Eggs, bread, milk it was all outrageous. A head of iceberg lettuce was $3.99. Small packages of lunch meat ham were $5.89. We bought a bottle of salad dressing for $5.99 and I was going to get some sugar free cookies, but a small box was $6.98. We left with cans of Campbell’s soup, some cheaper lettuce and a package of cherry tomatoes at $4.29. The full sized tomatoes were over $6. I am not sure how people can afford to shop here, but the store was doing a booming business. Now that I think about it, there were more register lanes with signs pointing out they were for 15 items or less. Maybe most cannot afford more than that many items at once. 

Once we returned back to the apartment, the rain started once again. Guess we are in for the night. 

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