The alarm rings, it’s 4 a.m., I am waking up and it still seems unreal that I will be on my way to Panamá soon. I feel excited and a little bit afraid at the same time. But I decide that it’s good to be afraid because it means that I am on my way outside the comfort zone.
My dad drops me off at a place in the north of my hometown, I say goodbye and am on my Blablacar ride to Frankfurt Airport. About three hours and a conversation-rich (is this a word?) car ride later, I arrive and board my Delta flight. The flight is expected to last about 10 hours. I get lucky because the seat to my right stays empty and I pass the time with about 2 hours of sleep, 3 movies, 2 white wine and some averagely tasting airplane food.
First stop is Atlanta but even with 2,5 hours layover the immigration check takes ages and time flies by. I ask myself: “Is this immigration check-in really necessary? I just want to keep going to Panamá..” But well, I meet two Germans in the line, who are also a little bit worried to get their connection flight to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. In the end everything works out and I board the plane.
On the plane, I get lucky again. I share three seats with the girl Chen from Israel. She tells me that she is on her way back from New York. She and her husband live in Panamá City and founded and run the hostel chain “Selina” with hostels in México, Panamá and Colombia. We have a nice chat in which she gives me some good advice regarding immigration into Panamá, their hostel in Medillin where I could volunteer later on my journey and cheap airlines for latinoamerican flights.
After 3,5 hours I land in Panamá and get through immigration quickly. Luckily my backpack arrived with me (!) – something that is not always normal on connecting flights to Latinamerica. Leaving the airport, it feels like I hit a wall. It must be around 90% humidity and within minutes I start to sweat (I guess thats something I have to get used to).
In front of the Airport, I meet a German guy called Tom. He is already settled in a hostel in the city and awaits his girlfriend that arrived with the same plane as I did. He tells me that he already has a taxi driver and negotiated a good price to get back to the city (Apparently, there is no taxi clock but the driver tells you a price and you negotiate then). He invites me to share the ride and I agree.
On the way to the city center traffic is horrible. There are countless construction sites and you can really see and feel that Panamá is a country under development. I see many American cars such as RAM and Ford pick-up trucks and the huge 14-wheelersl trucks. Everyone is honking crazyily and for seemingly many reasons: greeting another taxi or a friend, letting someone know that you are overtaking, warning someone in case you are not sure if he saw you or simply because the traffic jam is not moving forward. The taxi driver is not completely sure where my adress is located, so he just stops in the middle of the street next to a stopped taxi and asks. In return we receive about 5 loud honks and I am a little bit afraid that someone will hit us. In the end we arrive at my couchsurfers flat at San Francisco Bay, Torre 200. A guarded area with a guard that wants to see my passport. Once I get to the building, another guard calls Jorge, my couchsurfer, and tells him I am there. Then I am allowed to enter the elevator and rise to floor 31.
I arrive at the flat and immediately realize that Jorge is a super nice guy. He welcomes me with a big smile and starts speaking in German with me. He aims to study in Germany next October and wants to practice, so I go along and try to form easy to understand sentences for him. However, his German is impressively good for 2 years of practice in Panamá. He offers me water and a shower, which I happily accept to counter the humidity. Afterwards we chill in his room together and talk about Germany, Ecuador (his home country), Panama and couchsurfing – all with a mixture of English, Spanish and German language. In the end my eyes start closing themselves – after all I am awake since 26 hours now. In German time it is now 6 a.m., while in Panama it’s only 11 p.m. We go to bed, I am thinking about how happy I am to have arrived well and about my day in Panama City the next day. This takes about 30 seconds and I am asleep. The next day I wake up to this view: