I had anticipated christmas and new years down here in Panama, curious to see what it would be like (or what we would come up with to do). We did a family christmas back at home in November before I moved down here so to me, I had already had my somewhat traditional family christmas, so this christmas was a bonus.
Since I (was) living with 2 guys from Spain, we decided to do a big dinner on December 24th, as they do in Spain. We each took a course (I chose dessert). Also, since I live in a very male-dominated house, there was a lot of meat. Cold meats and cheeses for appetizers, salmon for course #2, and the main course was ham. By then I was about ready to turn vegetarian, and not to mention that I was belly-aching full, but we managed to cram down dessert too. Our cooking styles were limited, since our oven doesn’t work, so everything was prepared either stovetop, microwave, or cold. It was still delicious, and a nice way to celebrate christmas with my roomies.
Christmas day was probably the most relaxing day I’ve had here so far. I got up early to enjoy the day, went to the pool in the morning for a few hours, home for lunch, then since nothing too exciting was going on at my house, decided the best place for me to be at the time was back at the pool. I planned on just going for another hour, but ended up spending another 2 hours (at least!) at the pool. It was wonderful. There was a christmas BBQ at a friend’s place, where we continued to eat, drink and dance into the late hours of the night.
New Years Eve was not exactly what I expected for Panama City, but still an enjoyable night. My friend Becky was in Panama visiting me and had arrived a couple days before our ‘big night out’. We got all dressed up (thankfully Becky brought some nice shirts because I apparently overlooked that when I packed), jewelry, makeup, the whole works, and met up with some other friends in Gamboa to head into the City. We arrived in the Calle Uruguay area (where all the bars and clubs are) around 8:30, expecting lineups and tons of people, only to find the 6 of us to be alone on the streets. Baffled, we wandered around to find a place to eat dinner and get a drink, thinking that it would pick up at any time. After we finished dinner around 10, there were people just starting to trickle into the area. We went over to another bar, where we got served complimentary fruit and chocolate fondue (we figured because they wanted us to stick around for midnight, the bar was quite quiet!). But we decided it wasn’t the place for us, so we headed to another bar, just in time to “ring in the new year”. No line ups, no countown that we were all so ready for, and all of a sudden some fireworks went off in a nearby section of the city and there was a bit of cheering that lasted maybe 30 seconds. And that was it for new years in Panama! It doesn’t seem to be a very big deal down here, and in fact, most people celebrate new years with their families and then head out later. We stayed at the same bar until about 4 am, since it was comfortable, airy, and playing 80’s music videos (in english) all night!
The taxi ride home was probably one of the most talked about parts of the night! We think our driver was tired (or drunk, hopefully not!), because he would go really fast, start drifting off to the side of the road, slam on the brakes, then smack himself in the face a few times to wake himself up. Over and over again. In order to get into Gamboa, you need to cross the bridge, which is an iron and wood bridge with two wide tire tracks that you need to stay on. We made it halfway across and then before we knew it the wheels of the taxi had drifted off the the tracks and the bottom of the car was scraping against the bridge! We made it across thankfully, but sometimes I think that taking those crazy buses are safer!