Remember that time that I said that the next time I wrote, I would be hanging out, carefree in Bocas del Toro? Well AHAHAHAHA no. Do I have a story for y’all.
On Friday, it was Parents Day in the valley, and then everyone was leaving after that to go on Inspiration Week! As a recap, Inspiration Week is basically a week in the middle of the intern program where you, essentially, are kicked out of the valley and forced to go and do something cool in Panama or in a surrounding country. Everyone is going all over, which was basically the point. Sounds dope!!
So after leaving the valley, a few of us make it onto an early bus out of San Miguel when I realize that I do not have my phone on my person. I was mildly freaking out, but I also knew that freaking out wouldn’t change anything, so I stayed chill. Another girl offered to let me send a message to a ton of people to locate my phone. It was found in San Miguel, and someone messaged back that it would be dropped off at the front desk of the Sortis Hotel, where they were staying. This was great news! I’ll have my phone for Inspiration Week! Hooray me! So a few ladies and I grab a few hostel beds at Posada and go buy a bunch of food to make a beautiful dinner and chat with the camera crew, complete with goat cheese spread and sparkling rosé with guava juice. After dinner, I hopped in an Uber (from a friend’s phone) to said Sortis Hotel, feeling confident that I would have my phone back so soon! So I saunter up to the front desk and politely ask for my phone, and they kind of give each other confused looks and said that no one dropped off a phone, and the person who was going to drop it off, looked up by last name of reservation, had checked out that morning. SO I WAS CONFUSED. AND SLIGHTLY CHAPPED. Like, real chapped. I get back to my hostel and find a different group of friends there and we all complained about our awful luck with technology thus far, as most people have had at least one device cash out due to water/humidity damage, which I have been lucky enough to avoid. We all went for a beer, and then I went back to the hostel to sleep off my stress and hopefully be awake early enough to grab a bus to David so that I could get to Bocas as soon as possible.
Naturally, I wake up at six in the morning, as always. I very quietly pack all of my things into my pack and am ready to go by 6:30am. There was still no word on my phone, and I had honestly already given up on it at this point and accepted that it was stolen and I’ll never see it again. RIP Destiny’s iPhone 6s. The lady at the hostel’s front desk said that the whole trip, with my bus to David, another bus to Almirante, and then the water taxi, would be between eight and nine hours, and I had to be there by 6pm, so leaving on the 8am bus was good! I was well on my way. No one else was awake yet, so I just sort of went ahead by myself. Honestly, I love traveling on my own because I feel like a badass when I can figure these things out in languages that I don’t speak in places that I’ve never been. It’s a thrill, truly. I also made a few friends on the way, a small group of backpackers from Canada! They’re going to Bocas later this week, so hopefully I run into them. Anywho. I get on the 8am bus and realize that I forgot my Kindle, and then I realized after that I forgot my notebook with all my project plans, too. A six-hour bus ride with literally nothing to do. I was ready to be laid into the earth at this point. The next six hours would have been unfortunate, if it weren’t for the fact that Panama’s roadwork is strikingly like Michigan’s is, which was made for a terrible EIGHT-HOUR BUS RIDE. Oh, yes, you read that correctly. I was on that damn bus until almost 4pm.
And then, the next leg of the journey, was a (apparently) two-hour bus ride to Almirante from the David station. The station was complete and utter chaos. None of the buses had a city in which I recognized the name. Chinguinola was apparently the bus I get on to get to Bocas, said the security guard, whom I trusted and jumped in the one leaving at 4pm. The guy told me it would $1.45 for the ride, which was awesome. It was similar to the Diablo Rojo buses that we take out of San Miguel into the city, except that it was just a larger sized minivan with twenty people packed in there pretty tightly with Latin pop music with accordions blaring from the speakers. I was the only white person and the only English-speaking person. The children were staring. It was a time. Honestly, it was a gorgeous ride, despite the discomfort. From David to Almirante is a lateral cross of the northern region of Panama, which is really mountainous and teeming with life and lush greenery. The driver of the bus was also going extremely fast, which was a little nerve-wracking and I wished that I had someone to grab onto for an anxiety cushion, but that was a decision I made against when I decided to travel by myself (it’s a learning experience, right?). I felt like I was in a movie, though, just because it was such a bizarre situation that I found myself in with no one else that I knew; I kind of realized how cool it is that I’m out here just living life, running around countries and not giving a rat’s ass about anything but the adventure. I’ve always aspired to be one of those people, but I never thought I’d actually achieve it, and I definitely never thought that I would achieve it at the age of twenty. Anywho. I’m chilling in this cramped bus, and it’s a bit past six, but it’s still light out, and we must almost be there, so maybe there will be another water taxi going out that I can jump on last minute. We stop in this little town, and everyone gets off, and I nearly have a panic attack because this can’t be the last stop. We are surrounded by mountains still. Where is the ocean. I ask the bus driver in broken Spanish if this is a rest stop, and he says the bus will keep going in ten minutes, so I take that as a yes. In ten minutes, sure enough, some people get back on, and we keep truckin’ along. And keep trucking, and keep trucking. And we continue to truck and suddenly it’s 7:30pm and I am still on this god damn bus. I ask again, and they say three minutes, whisper to each other, and then say the price is $8. I retorted that it was funny, since when I got on and asked about Almirante, I was told $1.45, and the guy just smiled and said $8 again. This dude was not going to let me off the bus until I gave him his $8, apparently, and I just wanted to lock myself in a room and be angry at the universe for the rest of my life, so I basically shoved the bills in his face and hopped off the bus. It was dark, sketchy, and, not going to lie, I was pretty scared for my safety, but I took a few breaths and calmed myself down. I was gonna do this, and I wasn’t about to die so soon after that freaking day.
Almirante is truly an armpit. It smells bad, there are things randomly on fire here and there, and I was already in a shite mood because of the things that happened to me. I called over a taxi and jumped in, and attempted to tell him in Spanish where I needed to go, but didn’t know how to say it in Spanish. Basically I just started saying words that describe what you might do in a hotel room, like “Dormir”, and he said not to worry and called his dad, who speaks English, to talk to me and ask me where I wanted to go, which I really appreciated. The driver ended up dropping me off at a hotel, and didn’t charge me for the cab ride because he could probably tell that I had the worst day ever. I profusely thanked him; that was exactly what I needed. I got a room at a hotel for $25, where I am now posted up, not on the beaches of Bocas del Toro. I went to check my Facebook to see where my friends were and if they had taken an alternate route and made it to Bocas. Instead, I saw a post on Facebook that someone had randomly found my phone in their backpack. Suddenly everything seemed fine because I didn’t have to spend money on a new phone! It sucks that I can’t take any photos for Inspiration Week, but I’ll just use someone else’s phone and send them to myself, I guess. I’m just happy my phone isn’t gone forever!
After some reflection on the day, yeah, it was definitely a Worst Case Scenario day, but I think it’s also kind of an experience. If I was here with my friends or on a formal vacation, we would have just flown or taken a charter bus or something. Everything about a culture, even the annoying, weird, crazy, and irritating things, are important to experience and understand. I keep needing to take a step back and remind myself that, yes, this is my life. I am here, doing these incredible things in foreign places that I used to daydream about in high school. Things that I never thought that I could do. Even after today, I am so inspired by my own life right now, and by the lives of everyone that I’ve met here. It’s been a pretty bad past couple weeks, to be honest, but I have a feeling like today was the last bad day. I feel really good. Things are changing. The universe pulled this crap on purpose. Lesson learned, Universe. I’ll appreciate everything more, I promise.