Our first workaway was in the tiny village of Puerto Lindo. I’ve never really thought of how small a village is until we got to Puerto Lindo, with all one hundred residences she is definitely a village. Puerto Lindo was really cool because there was a mix of Spanish and caribe culture. The houses were all made out of concrete, with open windows and doors, metal roofs, and brightly painted. There is no internet, expect a weak connection at the school, and most people spend their time sitting on their porch.. Just sitting..
There were always people out and about, women chatting and braiding hair on the front steps, men out fishing, kids running wild in the streets claiming trees and playing games. Everything about Puerto Lindo was completely different from anything Eli or I had experienced, getting there was an adventure in and of itself. To get there we had to take the local buses commonly known as “Los Diablos Rojos” AKA the coolest buses ever! They are old school buses that people have completely decked out. The outsides and insides are graffitied with cool designs and paintings, in some LED lights flash, and they all have huge speakers that blast Spanish music as they’re cruisin down the road. The first one we rode in had a huge flat screen TV playing music videos. They are a super fun and cheap way to get around town and Panamá. They have definitely been one of my favorite things about Panamá. We only got two pictures but since our mission is to ride as many Los Diablos Rojos as we can before we leave we will definitely get more. So, there is the driver and his co-pilot who sits on a bucket by the door (or stands). The bus goes zooming up to the stop honking its horn and blasting music while the co-pilot hangs out the door waving for people to get on. It’s quite the experience.
The house that we lived in was very basic, with concrete wall, metal roofs, and little sheet things hanging from the door frames for “privacy” since there were no actual doors in the house. There was a kitchen, with a back room to store food, and a mezzanine for sleeping, a front room with a desk and hammocks, a bedroom, and a bathroom that also had a door that opened into the yard. The kitchen was two burners on a camping stove outside because it would get way too hot during the day to cook inside. Also, the sewer system is really bad in Panamá so you can’t flush any toilet paper. The people we stayed with, Amy and Austin, told us that you know that people are rich when they don’t have a poop toilet paper bucket.
The backyard was a little mud area and then a grassy hill that led into the jungle. Austin and Amy, the people we stayed with, were super kind and interesting to talk to. They knew how to cook pretty much anything from starch, they taught us how to make pancakes and Patacones (twice fried plantains), and knew about all the animals and plants around Panamá. They adapted so well to having to pretty much make anything and everything while Eli and I struggled which is why we ate rice and eggs the first day. Our first day of work consisted of me cleaning and organizing the back room and Eli scraping the rust of the bars on the gates and windows so they could be re painted. After finishing our tasks we headed down to have a swim. We walked along the dirt road through the jungle where we saw some howler monkeys, their calls sound like death Metal screams, until we came to this big ugly blue wall with a gap in it. Through the gap was a field and a little beach where we spent the day desperately trying to cool off. The humidity is hard to get used to.
The second day I went to the market in Sabanitas to get groceries with Amy while Eli used the machete to carve a trail from their backyard to the forest. Our third day of work was by far the hardest. We went to this little town called Jose del Mar to collect mangos so Austin and Amy could make Mango Chutney. They told us that it as just right up the road and we could hitch hike there if we wanted. Being from the U.S. where you’re told that if you hitchhike you will end up in a ditch we were a little hesitant, but half way through the walk we were begging for a car to drive by. This was not a short little walk. This was a 6 mile trek down a dirt road in a million degrees with a million degree humidity. With emotions running high our main concern was making sure the other didn’t drink all the water. On the bright side we did see some cute little Capuchin monkeys playing in the trees. We wandered through Jose del Mar until we found the Mango trees and we had to battle the biggest scariest bee things I’ve ever seen. There were regular bees and the there were these huge black and blue wasp looking bees, and ones that were bright red. Eli and I examined the fallen fruit as quickly as possible while dancing around the infested Mangos. With our backpack full of Mangos and some in our hands for the road we started our trek back. We trudged along the road sweaty, tired, and almost out of water and then the clouds parted, the Angels sang and we saw a truck coming in the distance. *Mom and Dad, this was desperate times and desperate times call for desperate measures*. After flagging them down we hoped in the back and had a bump yet cool ride about a half a mile down the road to the Marina they were going to. We waved and thanked them and were once again on our way. The universe must have felt sorry for us because about 10 minute later another tuck came around the bend, thank gawd, we hopped in the back and got a jostled ride back to Puerto Lindo.
When we got back I helped peel Mangos for Mango chutney while Eli ate the tiniest little pepper from hell. Austin was making BBQ sauce out of these natural peppers he picked, which are apparently related to the chile, and had Eli tried one. Big mistake. It looked like the most painful experience, Eli said it felt like someone was stabbing his mouth with a hot knife. And here began the three day long sick marathon for Eli. Wednesday Eli spent the day in bed and I spent the day doing laundry by hand, which is way more of a work out than you would think!
Yesterday, Thursday, we decided that though we really enjoyed Amy and Austin we weren’t really enjoying Puerto Lindo, especially with Eli being so sick. We loved the little town but there want much to do aside from just sitting on the porch. So we packed our bags and headed back to Panama City to re-evaluate our travel plans. Eli is feeling much better today and we plan to head to Bocas del Toro, little islands near Costa Rica, to swim surf and get our scuba certification!