It takes over 12 hours before I finally reach my hostel in David, Panama. The border crossing seemed to take forever but when I finally got the necessary stamps in my passport and the dogs didn`t sniffed any drugs in my backpack, I may finally enter Panama.
In my hostel I was warmly welcomed by a girl from London. I get a bed in the dorm, dump my bag on the bed and grab my last bit of oatmeal, which I`m already carrying around for two weeks. I`m dying of hunger and make a big pot. While I'm in the kitchen, I`m suddenly embraced by two people: “Sanne !! So awesome to see you again!” I turn startled and look straight into the eyes of Jennis and Jack an American couple I met at Flutterby (see blogs `On the road again` and `Judgements and prejudgments`. I give both of them a big hug in return and with compassion they look at my pot of oatmeal. “Is that your dinner?” she asks. “Well it's really not that bad. I have spent the past two weeks eating soooooo well, so it's time for some `back-to-basics'” I reply. “Are you crazy! Come we have some leftovers tonight” says Jack. 5 minutes later I'm sitting with a pot of oatmeal, a plate of rice and vegetables, an ice-cold beer and 10 other backpackers at the table. Everybody`s making friends by sharing the small amount of food and drinks they have left. I cut my apple and banana in pieces and put it on the table to share. Panama appeared to be literarily a bottleneck of travelers going south crossing the ones going north. We enthusiastically exchange hostel addresses, must-sees and of course good stories.
When I am walking towards the cold shower the next morning, I laugh spontaneously. What a contrast with my last two weeks, I am happy and feel happy that I`m able to enjoy both modes of travel so tremendously.
The cold water is dripping down making its way into the drain. Suddenly, somebody knocks on the door of the shower. “Sanne, you`re taxi to Boquette is waiting for you.” Quickly, I jump into my clothes, make a sandwich and grab my backpack. It's time to learn Spanish in Boquette! During my trip I have now picked up quite a bit of Spanish, but real conversations with the locals was still a bridge too far. In addition, grammar is still one big question mark, so two weeks Spanish course in combination with a homestay seemed not to be such a crazy idea.
At the school I was warmly welcomed by one of the teachers. From now on everything will only be in Spanish. But first passing an oral exam to see in which class to put me. My level turns out to be better than I thought and I may start in class 2+. My classmates appeared to be in class for over 6 weeks! With a sense of shame I admit that I didn`t had any lessons before, but that I will work my ass off to catch up. My vocabulary appeared to lack a lot of words, so I get a whole list to take home which I need to learn by head before tomorrow + regular homework. “Ok, we're really back to school” I think to myself.
With my head full of information I get into the car which takes me to my Panamanian family. They appear to live just outside Boquette. About 20 minutes walk from the school. I am warmly welcomed by my host mother and her two sisters, I get a high five and a box from my 16-year-old host brothers and my six-year-old host sister shyly reaches out her hand. We sit down for dinner and the question firebombing is going loose. Especially my brothers prove to be extremely interested in the forbidden `fruits` of Amsterdam and my sister was particularly fascinated by my long, blonde hair.
After a burn-out it was time for a change. I quit my job, sold my stuff and bought a one-way ticket to the Dominican Republic. What was supposed to be a 4 month adventure turned into 2,5 years and counting......
Photo by: Vanessa Marques Barreto