7/8/19 – 7/10/19
There is an actual Spanish word for “Zipper”, but “zipa” appears to be more common. I point to the crotch of my pants and ask where I can get it fixed. I realize the dangers of such a question with my poor grasp of the language, but we seem to have an understanding and I am directed to a few different seamstress shops. Once there however, nobody seems to know what I’m talking about. Eventually it dawned on me that, like in my America, everyone behind the counter of a sewing shop in Panama City is Chinese. Their grasp of Spanish, just as bad as mine.
I was looking for a place called “Casa Faca”. I followed Wu to the metro. I’d met him at a shop not too far from where we were staying. As we got off he approached a short man in a Panamá hat whose name I would later find out to be Placido. They appeared to know each other.
Placido waved me in his direction and I followed him through Monday morning Mercado scents of incents and fruit stands. Old men sitting on grand plaza steps passing the morning paper around, pressing a finger violently into a picture and making incomprehensible points to one another. Each of them sounding as if they'd settled the matter, but no one seemed to agree. Even older men sit on buckets around rickety tables and slam dominoes down in victory. Little boys play soccer in alleys with coke bottles and a little girl drops her caramel apple in a puddle of street juice; her mother smacks her upside the head.
"El chinito me dijo aqui" (The china man told me it was here)
He drops me on a pedestrian street full of shops. I ask how he knew Wu and he told me that they had never met before and that Wu simply picked him out of the crowd and asked him to bring me here. I thanked him and continued on my own. I find "Casa Faskha." They measure up the tent and sell me a new zipper for four dollars. I walk out a bit nervous at the thought of negotiating such a critical alteration to our home in Spanish.
Casa Faskha was on the other side of town. I tried to return quickly, but was sidetracked by the best piece of cheese bread that I’d ever had as well as a dollar fifty haircut in a chair that somebody had setup on a street corner. I returned to the original seamstress more streamlined and apparently unrecognizable. Wu was nowhere to be found. The woman at the counter said they could not get to our tent for a week and said something about another shop. I couldn’t understand her. She took me outside and put her hands on my shoulders, turned me to the left, and gave me a push.
“Alli,” she yelled.
The owner of the next shop was Nicaraguan. I told her I loved her country. She told me it was all going down the drain and that was the reason she was living in Panamá. I explained our broken zipper and she said she could have it done in a few days. I told her I needed it the next day and could pay a stiff ransom of two dollars to ensure that this happened. She smiled and agreed.
The next morning we went to see the Panamá Canal. I felt a bit like an old lady on a Grey Hound bus going to see the Hoover Dam. Watching the ships pass through the locks is about as dramatic as watching a bathtub fill. People shove their way to the best positions on the overlook deck then mostly stand and talk because there just isn’t much to watch.
More exciting is the Imax film about the canal which is narrated by Morgan Freeman’s voice. Morgan Freeman’s voice can take any documentary from the gutter to Sundance. I would vote for Morgan Freeeman’s voice if it ran for president. According to Morgan, the French tried to build a canal in the late 1800’s. At some point the SU recognized the strategic important of controlling trade in two oceans and got to work helpng to liberate Panama from Cuba.
The failed French approach was to dig a canal through the mountains. This collapsed time and time again and proved unfeasible. A creative American engineer suggested damming the canyon as is and then using the now famous lock system to raise and lower boats to and from it. This system was based on a deisgn by Leonardo Da Vinci.
The Canal officially opened on August 15th, 1914, and was overshadowed by the news of World War I starting that same day.
We watch a little cruise ship pul in, folled by a freighter. Tug boats, nudge boats. Little rafts connect cables from trains to guide large ships through. In some cases they only have a foot or two to spare on either side. A ship can pass from one side of Panamá to another in eight to ten hours.
We rushed back to town to pick up the tent. The zipper was cut too short. Rather than call me to discuss things they’d made the executive decision to put it on anyhow. To make things worse, they’d put the stopper caps on an inch or two from the end, so now when the zippers was closed, there were still 2-3 inches of open space at the bottom. I was frustrated, but there was nothing I could do. This all seemed perfectly reasonable to the shop owner. I handed over twelve wadded dollars and left. .
We left Panama city the next day. It rained… a lot. We took cover for lunch under some tents setup in front of a Dominoes Pizza food truck. We left as the rain let up. Just as we pulled into the street a bus plowed through a puddle and juiced me. Our goal was to get somewhere near Puerto Lindo. This is where the boats to Colombia leave from. We’d been in contact with Captain Joel, who had a small puddle jumper and said he could take us to a town called Necocli. We’d read that somewhere along the road to Puerto Lindo a cyclist had recently been robbed so we were a bit on edge. In a little no name town several people came running after us and screaming. We kept riding but then more appeared and blocked the road in front of us.
“Puerto Lindo is that way,” a man pointed to a turn that we’d missed. “Suerte amigo.”
We found a little restaurant with on a peninsula that let us camp near the water with the agreement that we would eat fresh fried snapper and yucca.
“How’s the tent look?” I asked Soph as she was setting it up.
“The zipper is short, but it works well and seems like they did a good job of putting it on.”
I noticed she was standing on my side of it as she told me this.
“That might be true, but it appears that they replaced the wrong zipper, it’s the one on your side that is busted.”
The restaurant owners gave us a little bucket of water to bathe with. I sat up watching lightening over the sea and trying to imagine what it would be like in Colombia in just a few days.
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