Ah yes, Panama. The city of skyscrapers which has been called the 'Miami of the South', a city of extremes in which SUVs dominate the streets while the ordinary people pile onto those mad looking Red Devil buses.
I made it! The last stop before my journey home and just to make everyone back in Galway feel good about themselves it's been pissing rain here for the last two days, and probably a lot longer.
I shouldn't joke about it, really, because Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela are all in the middle of a crisis brought about by weeks of heavy rain, flooding, and people being displaced from their homes.
Here the papers are full of stories about how selfish people are to be obsessed with the materialism of Christmas while so many of their brothers and sisters have lost their homes.
It reminds me a bit of the annual 'season of goodwill' back in Ireland, which always leaves me cold. I don't believe in all that Catholic crap for 11 and a half months of the year, so why get carried away by a mad materialistic splurge?
Bah, humbug, and all that. We should treat Christmas as the midwinter Pagan festival which it always was and not a silly excuse to go crazy on booze, food, and shopping sprees.
Panama is like an American city in many ways, because there is so much extreme wealth and poverty side by side. There are parts of the city where it is not safe to walk in the middle of the day, and parts where you'd swear you were in Manhattan or Miami, surrounded by skyscrapers and beautiful women dressed to kill.
But today, as I struggled through the rain, I missed Nicaragua. I treated myself to a few afternoon beers to watch my enemies, Man. United, defeat Arsenal and then went to the cinema for the first time in months ... it's impossible to find a decent cinema in Granada.
But all I could think of is how much I love Nicaragua. Panama gave me a gentle welcome to Central America back in August, but Nica stole my heart ... like those of so many people I have met over the past four months.
The people are poorer, things just don't work, and yet they have so much soul, and the simplest of things such as a bus journey can become a huge adventure. Somehow, the place just gets under your skin and every volunteer I have known since September found it a hard place to leave.
Funny how the dirt poor country seems so rich in terms of soul compared to its much wealthier neighbours to the south. I even flew back here to avoid the 'gringos' of Costa Rica! Oh, and the 27 hour bus journey.
Don't get me wrong, Panama has a lot to offer, including friendly people, gorgeous countryside, and lovely beaches on two oceans. But I would never consider moving here from Ireland, given that it rains a hell of a lot. I wouldn't move here permanently just to get soaked for months on end.
Nica is the place which has captured my heart this year. I'd love to go back and help them build a canal to rival the one here, to see the place take its deserved place among the most wonderful destinations on earth.
Maybe I could become a propaganda officer for Daniel Ortega, to counter all the Americans'false claims about his poor but wonderful land. Or maybe not!
Panama has far more money, but Nica has far more soul.
Still, it's a nice place to finish my Central American adventures, despite the constant rain. Hard to believe I will be home in just a couple of days. Regards to all!
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