After a boat ride, taxi and two separate buses I arrived in the cool (literally) little town of Boquete. Nestled between mountain ranges, this adorable town was quite a sight to behold! I can still recall sitting on the bus, completely surrounded by nothing but the view of mountain sides, when all of a sudden the view opened up and ahead was Boquete. It literally reminded me of some little obscure mountain town in Europe, quietly slumbering, hiding its secrets in the valley.
I stepped off the bus at the main square and started my hunt for a place to stay. There were several hostels along the main “highway” that looked quite nice, but a little out of my preferred price range. I had immediately decided to stay in Boquete for 5 days to a week so I wanted to find somewhere that I could get comfortable in for a bit. Off the main road I came across a house that had a little sign hanging on the front. The building to the right looked like a personal home, while the building to the left had 2 doors with numbers on them. I wish I had taken note as to the name of the place so I could share it with future travelers to this area, but sadly I did not.
After speaking with the family living in the main house about accommodations in one of their 4 apartments, I paid for 5 nights at $8.00 a night. That $8 a night bought me my own private room with queen size bed, little kitchen, private bath and even a little TV. Sadly the television only got a few channels and of course all were in Spanish, but at least it made for some entertaining distraction when I needed some.
Not a whole lot of excitement occurred in Boquete for me really. I used my time there to unwind a bit and get some essential things done before traveling on. For example laundry and a very much-needed pedicure! Hey, a girl still has to keep herself up regardless of where she goes:). I spent my days walking around the town and exploring new areas of the town each day, which also served as a good way to get exercise. Every day, and on some days all day, we had thunderstorms, the kind that rattle the very core of you shaking you from the inside out! Now I absolutely adore thunderstorms and was quite happy to be somewhere with consistent ones for a bit. During my lunch and dinner I would turn on the television and watch Spanish Soap Operas, which let me tell you are quite dramatic and funny in how dramatic they are. The days basically passed like this with a walk everyday for at least a couple of hours, otherwise killing my time with books or thoughts of where to go next.
What was interesting about Boquete was the great extreme of people present. It is obvious that Boquete has turned into the American Retiree place to go. For one, it’s cheap and in Panama in general it is quite easy to become a resident. All that is required is proof of steady income, which if you have your social security check, you get in immediately. What was funny to me though was the great divide in the town. You had your Panamanians, your Panamanian Tribe people who were easily spotted due to their traditional clothing that they wore daily, and then you had the Gringos (i.e. the expats living off their Social Security checks out of the Country where the cost of living is lower). It was humorous to watch as the Gringo gang walked around the town. Their dogs were all on leashes (every other dog was street smart and ran around free), they all walked in packs (the people, not the dogs) and English was the only language spoken or attempted (at least in all those who I noticed). I did find it quite sad that these people didn’t seem to make an attempt to learn the language. For if I were to permanently move to another Country, at least I could try to show respect to them by learning their language. Especially since I was in effect there taking advantage of their cheap standards of living…. But I digress.
Along this point I did myself look into a Spanish school in Boquete. As I probably mentioned before, I only spoke conversational Italian prior to coming to Latin America and while it was slowly changing over from Italian to Spanish, I thought some school would probably be a good idea to help facilitate and speed the process of speaking Spanish better. Boquete though was not somewhere I wanted to be for a long period of time though. It served its purpose well as a relaxing and quiet retreat, but knowing myself I knew there just wasn’t enough of a life there to keep myself busy for an extended period of time. Plus it was chilly there at night and sometimes during the day when the sun failed to make it through the cloud cover and I’m really a warm-weather kind of person so staying in cold climates can only be tolerated for so long! Interestingly enough, the school in Bocas (Habla Ya!) had a sister school in Bocas del Toro, Panama on the Caribbean coast. I had heard a lot about Bocas so thought perhaps I would check out the school there and if I liked the town would stay there for the classes. So after my 5 nights in relaxing Boquete, I moved on to Bocas del Toro.