Monday, March 19, 2007

The Famous Mystery Heart Patient

On our last day in Panama, we drove up to El Valle, a small town in the mountains of Panama. El Valle has become a weekend retreat for lots of city dwellers, because it’s much cooler than Panama City in the summertime.

We drove along a twisty mountain road, occasionally stopping when we saw interesting handicrafts, such as this bamboo helicopter. I can’t imagine anyone actually buying such a thing.


The mountain scenery was really beautiful, although everything looks parched at this time of the year. In the summer, these hills are lush and green. Unfortunately, a thin haze obscured the views, because during the Dry season, people cut back brush and burn it.




On the way, we came upon this bus, which calls itself the “Expresso del Amor” (The Love Bus). We puzzled over what must go on in there.


In El Valle, we shopped for souvenirs. Although tempted, I didn’t buy a Panama hat. The primary reason is that I think they look awful. But who knows – maybe in a hundred years, people will look at photographs of me wearing a baseball cap and wonder how I could wear such a stupid-looking thing on my head.


On the way home, my wife was lamenting that we didn’t have time for her to buy one of her favorite Panamanian treats, called a “bollo.” This is a pulpy concoction of corn and sweetened condensed milk, wrapped in a corn husk and cooked. They’re sold by street vendors, but we hadn’t seen one. No sooner had she expressed her dismay when we saw a sign for a restaurant by the side of the road called “BOLLOS.” We pulled in and discovered that they only sell bollos and empanadas. In fact, they had about 6 different kinds of bollos, so we bought one of each.


Outside the restaurant was a guy selling lottery tickets. This is a common sight in Panama, where the lottery commission pre-prints the tickets, and you have to shop for a number you like. Poor people buy lots of them at a discount and display them arrayed on card tables in public places.


Once we got home, we flopped in front of the TV and my daughter and I tuned to our favorite channel. You can get a lot of TV channels in Panama, some in English, some in Spanish, some in English with Spanish subtitles. But our favorite was this channel:


There’s no sound, just this oscilloscope image that jiggled and twitched to some unseen input. My daughter speculated, “Maybe some famous guy is sick and in the hospital, and they broadcast his heart monitor so people can check on him.” We left without ever finding out what it really was.

A lot of Panama is like that – bamboo helicopters, the Expresso del Amor, and the Heart Monitor Channel. Don’t try to figure it out, just go with the flow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In that picture with the hats I was three stalls back watching you. If you haven't figured it out already tis is Jonathan and I really was three stalls back haggling with that guy my dad got in a fight with.