Holy Moley! It’s been 1 whole year since I started my new life in Panama City, Panama as a young black expat. Wow! This time has gone by fast at times and slow at other times.
The Beginning of My Life in Panama City, Panama….
So I moved to Panama in mid-July 2021. I remember stepping out of the Tocumen Airport and being greeted by the hot humid air of Panama. I was stressed, anxious, excited, sad, all the emotions you could have, I had them!
I just ordered my Uber to my Airbnb destination in an area called El Cangrejo. However, then I didn’t know where I was going. I looked out the window watching all the cars and tall buildings pass by.
The driver who didn’t speak any English and at the time I didn’t speak any Spanish unloaded my 3 large suitcases, carry-on luggage, and my backpack. I stood in front of this high-rise white building. I went to the security and showed him my phone of the location I was going. He let me in. This was the start of the adventure of my life in Panama City, Panama.
I stayed in that Airbnb for a month and which helped me get started in this strange land of Panama. During my first month in Panama, I walked around the El Cangrejo neighborhood a lot.
I ate at the local restaurants nearby. I discovered what later became my favorite Ice cream spot called Güt in this time frame
One thing Panama does well is Ice cream! If you are an Ice cream lover you gotta hit up Güt and Ay mi Negra. However, all Ice cream spots you will find will be good.
Sometimes in life you fall, even as a Blaxit…Literally ha
Sometimes in life, you fall, even as a Blaxit….. Literally. Since I walked everywhere in Panama my first month and honestly still do. I ended up twisting my ankle on these Panamanian sidewalks. The plus side is that the city is very walkable; the downside is lots of broken sidewalks and cracks.
Panama City is not very large but still modern looking and has lots of high-rise buildings in the central part but the further out you go the more normal house and residential it becomes. Panama’s Skyline never gets old to me. It’s mesmerizing against the pacific ocean.
If you want to avoid falling like me, let me mention Panama’s public transportation. All of them are clean and timely. They have a metro train or subway that they are still expanding throughout the city. The bus system is clean and most of the time on time. When they close streets for protest is when the buses become delayed. Panama has 3 different ride-sharing services Uber, DiDi, and Indriver. I only found out about Indriver and DiDi later living in Panama. So you can travel around Panama without twisted ankles ha.
However, Traffic can be a butt sometimes too, especially if it’s a holiday Friday. Everyone leaves the city which is great because the city gets quiet. It’s amazing for this non-city girl like me. On a normal week, Sundays are my favorite because it’s quiet and chill, and hardly any honking.
Oh, Panamanians love to honk!
Honk if it’s raining!
Honk if she is cute!
Honk to pass through an intersection!
Honk if your favorite color is blue!
Honk if you have a mask!
Honk if you’re hungry!
Honk because you’re bored!
Well, you get it, they like to honk!
Time for a little Trash Talk…Hey, pros and cons to everywhere.
Living Here I have discovered Panamanians are the White Latinos of Latin America.
Sorry, not Sorry.
I still love them though. So if you are expecting great food in Panama is NOT it! Well, at least not in the city. People don’t rave about the food in Panama for a reason. They don’t know what seasoning and marinating food are. They love ketchup, lots of salt, and sauce. They don’t do spicy food here and this African child is like whhhyyyy??
Now you can find good food in Panama but there will be no Wow factor. You will just be like oh this is good.
Panama does have a lot of diversity so you can find Peruvian, different Asian fusion and traditional dishes, Indian, vegan, etc. However, many times these places are not going to be #1 on trip advisor and google.
Customer Service What is that???
Another thing about Panamanians is customer service or service, in general, is not a thing. So if you have a western or non-western expectation of good service. Throw all your expectations about that out of the window!
You will need to wave and get someone’s attention to take your order or get your check. You will need to wait until they finish their conversation before they help you at the store. Getting money back from a store because the item was wrong or messed up
That’s a no!
They may give you some store credit or you can exchange the item for another in the store but that might be like pulling teeth in some places. You didn’t like your food or drink? They still expect you to pay for it.
They may give you some store credit or you can exchange the item for another in the store but that might be like pulling teeth in some places. You didn’t like your food or drink. They still expect you to pay for it.
Okay, you get SERVICE is not their thing! Even other Panamanians complain about it.
Panama is dirty and full of consolidated trash. There have been many protests and organizations that are trying to help clean up the street all over the country. However, I have noticed there is a lack of education about sustainable living and the effects it has on the environment, water, animals, and themselves.
I have also noticed there aren’t enough trash and recycle bins in the city and outside of the city. There are no positive or negative consequences for the inappropriate disposal of trash as well. So it be DIRTAY!
Okay okay moving on to the things I love about Panama City, Panama.
Okay, let me move on to the things I love about Panama. Panamanian Nights…you see what I did there Panamanian, Arabian Nights teehee.
But really the weather at night is amazing. If you love summertime nights then you will love night time in Panama. Almost every night is a nice 70 degrees F or 21 degrees C with a nice breeze. It’s amazing!
Another thing I love is that kids still play outside and generally people like being outside. The Cinta Costera is packed on evenings and especially weekends. You have the runners, bikers, body builders, skaters, people playing basketball and people just walking or chillin in the area. So you have many vendors selling various items. There are many outdoor fitness activities at various parks around the city. Some people like the gym but I’m not one of them. I like to be outside if I can so this is a beautiful perk for me.
I absolutely love that they are outdoorsy people and there are places where I can easily rent a bike or skates and have a great time biking or skating around. On Sundays until 12 they block off half the street from Casco to the Amador area for bikers, skaters, runners, walkers etc. While this part of the city is the only place you can do it, I am glad it is still available.
Another thing I love is the fresh fruit juices, fresh fruit and vegetables in general. Like most other countries outside of the US, Panama doesn’t have all the preservatives in their food products. There are pros and cons to that. Con food looks less pretty haha. Pro quality tastes better. Top fruits in Panama Avocado, Papaya and Passion Fruit. I eat passion fruit everything in Panama.
Did someone say Passion Fruit Mojito??
Did someone say Panama Beaches??
One of my favorite things in Panama is the beach. Panama has great beaches now if you are from the Caribbean or come from a beach country I know you may be over the beach. However, for me coming from murkyish Virginia, North Carolina or South Carolina beaches, Panama beaches are love.
During my first month I went to Taboga Island which is the closest beach to the city and since I moved during the wet season it rained the day I went. However, the wonderful thing about Panama weather is it usually won’t rain all day or it’s not always heavy rain. So I still enjoyed myself.
The beaches I have visited so far are Taboga as I just mentioned, Contadora via Sonny Island resort, San Blas (2 islands), Isla Grande and Isla Mamey.
Isla Mamey is my favorite beach of these so far. The water is so clear, plenty of room to swim. They have a canopy and chairs you can rent. You can order food and the food and drinks were decent. The time I went, it wasn’t crowded so that was nice.
Isla Grande and Isla Mamey are in Portobello on the Colon side of Panama which is about 3 hours away from the city. You will take a small boat to get to these 2 islands.
Pacific Ocean: Taboga and Contadora
Atlantic Ocean: San Blas, Isla Grande and Isla Mamey
Hiking and Swings! Say less
Panama’s landscape is diverse so another thing that I enjoy in general is hiking. I will have to warn you and say if you go during the rainy or wet season be prepared for muddy conditions.
Panama hiking trails are not very smooth. When I went to hike India Dormida in El Valle it was the end of the wet season but it was still a hard hike because the trail was very rocky and still muddy in some places and damp in others. The very top of the mountain was very dry though. It was like you could touch the clouds. The view is beautiful! I’ll be talking about many of these trips in more detail in future posts.
Omg I also got to swing on a God made swing which was at the Metropolitan Park near the city on the Albrook side of the city. When I say God made swing, it’s made from a tree vine. I love swings so this made me really happy. They have normal swings too under the bridge that take you to the Amador which I love too. A friend showed me this on a Sunday morning bike ride to the Amador Causeway.
Panama Nightlife Let’s Party and Dance
Panama nightlife is nice. I will say if you are coming from states or countries where clubs close early then it might be an adjustment of how to party in Panama. Most clubs don’t start to get good until about 2am. Casco Viejo is where most of the clubs are but there are a few spread out in the El Cangrejo, Obarrio and San Francisco parts of the city.
Learning a little bit of how to salsa has been fun too. Salsa nights are usually during the week. Many tourists come looking for salsa on the weekends and that is not really a thing for the weekends in Panama. Reggaeton and EDM is mostly the weekend music vibe.
The Real Mundane Life
While I have been on many adventures in Panama with an amazing group of friends. Most of my days are spent working as a foreign language teacher, hanging out with friends, helping grow the Young Black Expat of Panama Group, grocery shopping, eating out, and sleeping. Really very similar things you are doing wherever you live. Once you settle into a place, life gets normal, your anxiety lowers, you miss your family and friends a little less or maybe I should say you can handle it better.
To All the Things I’ve Learned
One thing I learned from moving in general is you need to make friends and get involved in the city or you won’t like it. You will always miss your past life because you aren’t focusing on building your current one.
This year has been honestly challenging and exciting but mostly exciting. I have loved the majority of it. I have rediscovered my love for writing. I’m continuing to learn how to become a better teacher and deal with the stress of that. I’m learning how to build a community of love and fun. I’m learning how to speak Spanish. I’m learning how to date for shits and giggles. I’m learning to adapt and evolve to this new version of myself that is a little more free, a little more patient with myself and tapping into my love for community, exploration and creativity.
As always thank you for reading My world, My Vision, My Adventure!
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