Monday, February 13, 2012

Mama's First Visit

After my epic adventure in the brewery last Wednesday, I returned home to my mama as fast as I could so we could see parts of the city during the daylight. I of course took her to my favorite part of the city, Casco Viejo, where we hopped out of the taxi at the entrance and wandered our way into the area. As I’ve mentioned before, the entrance to Casco Viejo is beautiful and all renovated. Plus as you round the peninsula toward the end you have a spectacular view of the city.

While waiting for Johana to join us I showed my mom all the best spots and my favorite buildings thus far. Plus I told her about my life goal of buying one and fixing it up. Being the great mommy that she is and just as visionary as I am, she even put in her two cents on which I should consider. We ended up picking the same two. One facing the pacific where you can see the causeway, canal and all the boats waiting for it, the other in a plaza more of less facing the bay and the city next to the National Theater. They are perfectly positioned with just enough structure left to give guidance without hindering creativity. I really am in love with the area.

While wondering around Johana made her way to our meeting spot at the French Plaza at the very tip of Casco Viejo. We met up and headed back to a little plaza at dusk to try some Panamanian ceviche. Ceviche is originally from Peru but these days most coastal Latin countries have it made with whatever the local fish it. If you haven’t had ceviche, you must try it! While snacking on our little appetizer I was switching back and forth from English to Spanish for Johana and my mom. They were able to talk a little between each other since Johana speaks some English but on my mom’s part, nothing. So we tried to teach her and big and had some big laughs. Like most people learning, it was tough for her to roll her R’s so to say “que rico!” (which means, how good when referring to food) was mildly hilarious.

After ceviche and wine we wandered back to the farthest point in Casco Viejo to look around and maybe grab a bit more to eat. I showed my mom the secret of the obilisque, that one of the large plaques opens to an escape, and some other symbolism around the plaza. We decided to check out the restaurant that formed part of the plaza called Las Bovedas, which are chambers from the old jail. While checking the place out a guy came up and asked what we just did because he had lived here all his life and never seen that. Imagine, I showed a Panamanian something new in his city. The 4 of us got to chatting and as it turned out he was Panamanian, which went to the Maritime Academy in Maryland and now worked on one of the freighters that pass through the canal. So interesting! He was there finalizing plans for an event for a boat of students coming through from his alma mater and having a big happy hour for them and a bunch of alumni, about 100 in all. He was kind enough to invite us if we were still and town.

We 3 girls sat down and ordered a couple appetizers to share and beer to enjoy the perfectly warm and clear evening in front of the water, the park and the plaza. When finished with his planning, Alejandro (I remember because he made a Gaga reference) joined us and bought us a pitcher of sangria. After sharing a glass with us, he said goodnight to go rest for work at 12 am, leaving us the rest of the sangria. Very nice guy, I kinda regret not trying to get to the event but other things were going on that Friday.

 Las Bovedas is a little pricey but just ordering appetizers and a few drinks was completely reasonable, not to mention the food was delicious. Johana and my mom were hesitant on the grilled octopus but I insisted, and it was to die for. It was both their first time trying it and they love it! The chicken Caesar salad was delicious too and held its own against the octopus. Toward the end of dinner Johana heard a Columbian style of music being played inside the bar and wanted to go in to listen. Thus, we took our drinks and went into the back chamber with the cow couch where there was a table of Columbians being serenaded by a man with an accordion. It was fun music which Johana told us was usually played down on the beach and everyone dances too. It was a great way to finish our drinks and get to explore the deeper parts of the restaurant.

The one thing that spoiled the evening was when the check came. I was sure to look at it closely because suspicious me thought maybe that guy offered to buy sangria any perhaps forgot. How else would our bill for 2 appetizers and 3 drinks come out to $81? After looking at the bill for a while, which all the ink was kinda smudged and hard to read, I knew it couldn’t be right and the thought crossed my mind that they were trying to take advantage of us. I pulled the manager aside, showed her the bill, told her what we ordered including the prices because I remembered and told her whether they did it on purpose or not, it looks very bad for the restaurant because they are either trying to screw us or the waitress (who was very nice) was a ditz and did not even so much as look at the bill to see that it was horrendously wrong. Take that. They fixed it and we left. I think Johana even said something. Other than that little speed bump, t’was a wonderful evening.

Thursday at work was a blur. I was spoiled all last week taking taxis to work so I could spend more time with my mom and it kinda stuck. I suppose I’ll get back on the bus eventually but my taxi to work is only $2! Worth it to not be sweating when I get there! Each day I was at work my mom would sleep in, wander, and buy little things we needed for the house. Absolutely nothing compares to having my mama around!

She´s so pro, everyone gets on next time
We snacked and rested some more when I got home when everyone started arriving. First Mauricio to have his hair cut. Later a Brazilian who had just gotten to Panama to start his internship with an NGO similar to Habitat for Humanity called Un Techo para Mi Pais with the AIESECers who were dropping him off. We all hung out and chatted for a while until we motivated to head out to a bar. The original plan was to  go to the casino and bar right next to the house to go salsa dancing but we were convinced by the group to go to a friend’s birthday at a bar nearby which was also to welcome the arrival of another intern, this time a Chilean guy who had been MCP (national President) in Spain.

The AIESEC girls drove us over to Republik, a sports bar, and there was a huge group already there celebrating the Chilean’s arrival and waiting for the birthday boy. We chilled for a while, ate some rather American-ish bar food, then decided to call it a night since it was still Thursday. I am glad my mom got to meet a lot of the AIESECers since they are hosting me and she only got a few glimpses of AIESEC in the US. Plus, she got to meet Ernesto who, according to her, gave glowing reviews on me as a temporary roomie and now friend.

Mom’s trip concluded Friday morning when we woke up together and got ready to depart. On my way to work I bid her adeau as she climbed into a taxi to the airport and I into a taxi to work. Unfortunately she forgot all her snacks in my fridge and was probably hungry all the way home. Poor mama. Fortunately she departed on a Friday so I was not too sad and had the weekend to look forward too. In review an awesome 3 day trip for my mom and a very happy 3 day visit for me. I hope she is able to come back in February as promised! All my friends here say the same, as by that time they will be needing haircuts again, haha. Love you and miss you mom. Dad, your turn is coming! 

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