fragments of a transition

or… happy new year! 

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

T.S. Elliot



How can you be grounded somewhere physical for so long, geographic, gravity in one place, in one country, existing somewhere for five months and then in a moment (one moment) the plane lifts up and suddenly you’re just not. On the ground below, traverse and navigate through heat, buses and green, sluggish over days and months, and then suddenly in not-place, seeing a geography slip away and somehow something with it.

Touchdown in Miami. Overwhelmed by infrastructure and development, prosperity. 

Get off plane: Beeline for Aun Bon Pan. Two chocolate chip cookies in hand, wander through airport massively over stimulated. Diversity and lights—restaurants! salads! iced coffee!—and people. Fat people, tall people, black people, Asian people, skinny, obese, ethnic and oh-so American crew-cut. Amazing and I kept gaping and savoring the beauty of baked goods and different faces.

Mom and Dad at LAX airport. Rain and home. Christmas, flannel pj’s, and copious amounts of GoLean crunch. Attempted to make Nicaraguan breakfast for family and ended up making enough gallo pinto to feed Gigante. Ixolina would not have been proud. 

Denver for New Year’s; into the beautiful Rockies; forgotton how stark, shocking they are. After streamlining all movement expenditures to release the least amount of heat—after the intense humidity of the tropics—I seem to have lost the ability to retain heat. After wearing a ridiculous amount of clothes in Colorado, I spent a month in Southern California absolutely freezing. 

…Los Angeles is a weird place. I visited a friend working at the Montage in Beverly Hills, a colossal, beautiful hotel that’s extravagant beyond reason. I drove home, winding through the Hollywood Hills, past mansions and strip malls, homeless dudes and run-down houses, and the Kodak Theater and the hazy Hollywood sign. Traffic, rolling along the city streets at five miles an hour. First, on my right side, a line of perhaps ten police cars. Then, a gaggle of twelve or fifteen police officers (presumably, drivers of said cars, although in LA, you never know). Then, a city bus pulled over in a no-stopping zone (the source of the five-mile-an-hour stroll), and six dudes handcuffed and being forced to sit on a side street curb. And we all kept rolling past, light green and accelerators ready. And from the limited point of view of my car bubble, no one seemed perturbed in the slightest. So along we rolled.

The United States is excess (and the Los Angeles sprawl of lights, freeways, pools and infrastructure leaves me wondering). It is also solid, permanent, wealthy and full of options, and, as they say, possibility. This is permanent and unmovable, it seems, compared to shaky buildings in Nicaragua, cars unhinged and roofs peeling off just the slightest. (LA permanent and Nica shaky? Ha, says a city built on fault lines.)Brightly lit grocery stores with fresh produce and structure and price tags, and smiling folks and anything you could ever want (to eat). Coffee shops with chattering folks and made to order drinks, whatever you want, however you want it. Driving—freeways, fast, left turns at midnight over twinkling city lights. The “RECESSION” which is used and said in capital letters and actually a bit more looming and scary than it seemed reading about it online. Perhaps print newspapers make it a bit more palpable (or perhaps that’s just my love of print media). And yet even so (not to jump on the third world horse)—I remember thinking in Nicaragua—this is economic distress. Our ‘recession’ is not economic distress (or at least not visually).


And then (1/21)

And along I roll. I can’t believe it’s January. The end of January. 2009 has sprung and barreled right into me, changing and consistent somehow, and it’s wonderful. I’m back together with my backpack (and with you, blog; it wasn’t you, it was me, I’m sorry) and just tickled pink.

Right now, Panama City is rocking my socks off. Yup, that’s right. Panama. This odd geography-time-space continuum works the other way around, as moments ago was I very much at home and in-home and being-home, and now all of a sudden I’m very much not. I reiterate: planes are really weird things, utterly discombobulating. Six hours after a nice salad dinner and chocolate chip cookies… I found myself once again on this merry and hot peninsula. 

I made some decisions. apparently. Someone wise told me to ask the right ‘big’ questions of myself, nevermind the little what-ifs and what-have-yous, and I guess those big questions answered themselves when I bought me-self a one-way ticket to Panama City two weeks ago. Several opportunities await me in Playa Gigante; which ones will pan out time will only tell. I’m excited and ready to let time tell me—and to be back in a cab, bumping along merrily into Gigante and up the little hill to Brio. Rather than just fly back to Managua, I thought to fly into Panama City and wander north.

Non-stop overnight flights are the absolute best and most abrupt. Friday night, I found myself at LAX once again. Hopped aboard a COPA airlines flight and arrived in Panama City at the most reasonable hour of 10 a.m. Flew through customs, found an amicable cab driver, and was soon sitting on a breezy bunk bed overlooking the city bay, and the southern facing Pacific ocean. I’m staying in Casco Viejo, a colorful corner peninsula of the city. Actually, according to the wealth of knowledge that I garnered in the Panama Vieja ruins museum, Casco Viejo is where the capital moved to after Panama Vieja, the original city site in the 1500’s and one of the most important trade centers in the Americas, was sacked and burned to the ground by pirates. Seriously. Pirates. The ruins are probably too lovely for this sad truth. And, as I wandered around and looked at the computer-replicated images of what the town ‘probably’ looked like, I was probably giggling about their similarity to the Pirates of the Caribbean saga. 

In any case, Casco Viejo became the new city site where all the rich people lived. Then, as Panama expanded, it became a slum. Now, it is again becoming ‘gentrified’. Casco Viejo thus is a layered area, with new on top of old, colorful and beautiful three story colonial homes next to abandoned and decaying lots. Contrast between decay and construction.

I was walking to the fish market and: a man sitting at the counter of a street-front restaurant, on a stool, back to the street, receives his lunch—a steaming plate of a congealed mess that looks neither healthy nor appetizing. Before he lifts his fork, he cross himself, looks upwards to say thanks, and finally digs in. 

A giant grocery store sucks me in for several hours to wander the aisles, full of possibilities and treats. I find a mini jar of peanut butter and a mini jar of jelly. Made for each other, a charming couple.

Dinner of shrimp and veggies on wheat spaghettis. Yummy in my tummy. A random fire-works show behind the night-skyline of skyscrapers across the bay, leaning out our window to watch and be breezed away.

No mention of Panama would be complete without my all-time favorite palindrome: a man, a plan, a CANAL! (panama). Three hours in the canal history museum, lots of history and random facts. Favorite: to build the canal, workers excavated 300 million cubic yards of soil and rock. That’s enough to build enough Egyptian pyramids to span Manhattan. (And yes, they did have a virtual diorama of what that just might look like.) They are very, exceptionally proud of that canal here (as they should be) and this pride is manifested in their five-story visitor’s center and yet another museum at the Miraflor’s locks. (Incidentally, the center is air-conditioned, as are many things here. Much appreciated although a lingering side effect of the United States’ territorialism here. Air-conditioning and Pizza Huts).

And then, the canal! It’s pretty darn impressive, seen to scale, in real life, out of a museum and under the beating sun.

More to follow on the canal… it permeates everything ’round here. Tomorrow I shall see more. Off to sleep, to roll over to see the Panama City skyline. 


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