Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Boquete is an absolutely an adventurers town. Let me give you a glimpse of what the two weeks brought. Saddling up an unpredictable horse, jumping into a running river off narrow cliffs, riding waves in a raft, reading books to young indigenous children, striding on trails, tipping out of a kayak, and zip lining 80 k.m.h…ahhhhhhh!
Before I left for Panama, you bet I had some wide eyes, and a fair amount of warning signs. My dad worried that I would be taken for ransom, my mom feared the same. So of course I came into Panama treading with caution. Most anywhere you go in the world these days; it seems you need some amount of caution and to stay on your toes. However, I will say the honest, friendly, hardworking people of Boquete helped me make the adjustment in less than a morning. I was in a tourist office the first day and asked a simple question that I feared would come back with a halting answer of “NOOOO WAY LOCA CHICA!” Ok, so here’s the question: “Is it safe to walk around Boquete by myself?”
I directed the question quietly at one guide but it got the attention of the whole office. There was a silence, I could hear my heart racing, thinking, “CARRI why would you ask that, of course you need a body guard in this city!” But where could I find one? The silence turned to smiles, a little laughter and they said with complete eye contact and reassurance… “You are very safe here.”
Well that was that. I was strolling around the town with my umbrella in hand, smile on my face and comfort in my head. Buying a mango for a 25 cents, a plantain for 15 cents and guanabana for 35 cents, I was set for a fruit fiesta. The stores are simple. The variety and masses offered are slim compared to the states. The beauty is that you really appreciate the small stuff. It’s not about fashion and trends here, it’s about community.
In a small town of Boquete you better like the local bars and restaurants. But how could you not? They all bring out atmosphere and community, and it’s where you will find everyone! In the two weeks I was here I started to see I would meet someone and see them again that same day or later that week. And never a reintroduction is necessary, just another hello and pulling up a seat to chat.
I saw my guide from the zipline tree trek at at a charity benefit the same night. Stopping to talk to a lady in the tourist information center led us to meet again at a local restaurant that same night. I started up a conversation with some tourists in a coffee shop and as I was driving out of Boquete we waved goodbye.
It really is more than the pure life here, it’s the simple life where you just can’t help but smile and see that worries won’t get you anywhere.
Boquete is a place that I refuse to say adios too, only hasta luego! I have a feeling I will be back in this mountain village, placed perfectly in the middle of a valley that oozes energy, life and new ideas. Horns honk to say hello. Indigenous dresses with beaming smiles behind them stroll the streets. An array of wildlife, flowers and terrain situated outside of the town waits to be explored. Doors open to shops filled with an eclectic selection. Nothing lit me up more than talking to someone who is straight up Panamanian. This means I could practice my Spanish; they could practice their English, and let the endless roll of questions begin with Carri’s curiosity. The questions of public vs. private education for children, labor laws, their health care system, the general consensus on Martinelli, and how they view foreigners starting businesses here. It seems that most are open to the migration of foreigners to Central America because they create jobs for Panamanians and business models they can follow themselves. I think the Panamanian government is spot on to develop rules for Ex-Pats that they must employ a majority of Panamanians. Of course the loving term Gringo had to develop somewhere and I would be lying if I said foreign migration is loved by all. It is the foreigners that come in with a good heart, not a greedy heart, that make ex-pats welcome. Of course, Boquete is mostly represented by Panamanians, and I think their culture, language and traditions should always come first. However, the fact that so many ex-pats come here not only to retire but to become pioneers, entrepreneurs and to make a life shows the diversity of the area. French, Canadian, American, Dutch, Brits, South African… that’s only a start. But it is refreshing to see a community like Boquete stay true to itself but welcome and support new ideas and business. I mean as delicious as the rice and beans are, it would be impossible to have an appetite for them every night. Cleary, Panamanian food runs the gamete; there is chicken, steak, corn, tamales, ceviche, yucca and more and more! And bless them for platano maaduro, a plantain cut it small pieces and fired. However, here you have Mexican and Italian. Or you can venture into authentic Israeli, Argentian, or Japanese cuisine… and the authentic face behind it, making it fresh everyday. It’s not just about the food but the stories, backgrounds and open hearts people bring. The valley of Boquete is one of those special places where you will find exactly what you are looking for, and even a bucketful of surprises along the way.