Chris and I just landed in Quito, Ecuador where we will be spending, on and off, the next three and half months of our lives. While I don’t have any pictures of Ecuador yet, (it was almost dark when we landed), from the plane it looked very much like Marin in California or what I am told Seattle looks like. Lush green hills and lots of fog. It seems absolutely beautiful and fresh and I can tell you that the coolness was a huge relief after the last 48 hours in Panama City.
We had a nice, though not very exciting trip to Panama City. We visited the Canal, super cool, and some of the historic areas. Unfortunately, probably the #1 thing I can tell you about it is that the city is hot. I am talking sweltering heat with full on humidity. There was no breeze and the exhaust just made us feel dirty all the time. We basically just sweated non-stop everywhere we went. Though by no means did I have a bad time, I think I probably would have really enjoyed our time there a 100 times more if it hadn’t been for that heat. As it was, I was really glad to be out of there within 48 hours.
The #2 thing I can tell you is that Panama City is a city on the cusp of development. By the look of things, it seems to be growing and developing incredibly fast. There is a massive amount of construction and everywhere you turned there seemed to be new infrastructure measures. I say new because though there were crosswalks, road signs, a new bussing system (complete with air conditioning, though no maps to see where all the routes go) and compost/recycling bins (yes compost!) they don’t seem to be really utilized or followed yet and I am guessing things like that take time to adopt and grow.
Also the downtown is gorgeous, huge skyscrapers and a beautiful waterside park and a walking/biking trail. Everywhere you looked there were fashionable Panamanians out running or walking around in gorgeous suits, eating snow cones. I may be incredibly naive and prejudice, but I just had had no idea that Panama City was that developed and that the downtown area would be so nice. Since Chris and I had just thrown it on our itinerary at the last minute, I hadn’t really bothered to do a ton of research on the city or country and it was quite a surprise to arrive to such a cosmopolitan city.
Unfortunately, the thing is right outside the beautiful downtown is a rundown and massively overcrowded infrastructure of houses and apartment buildings that look like they are just about ready to crumble. While the downtown area was all picked up and clean, the neighborhood where we stayed, which I was told is a typical middle class neighborhood right outside the downtown, had trash on the corners and massive potholes filled with brown sludge, aka city water. I do want to say that aside from the rundown exterior and overcrowding this area was actually pretty nice. I felt incredibly safe, there was a great supermarket, and all the modern conveniences you might need (including a McDonalds, no we didn’t eat at it).
All in all I would have to say Panama is a cool city that is currently undergoing some radical changes. It will definitely be interesting to see how it grows and continues to develop and I hope I get a chance to come back and see it, well that is if I can ever become accustomed to that kind of heat.