The freeway to Vacamonte

panama_cityFor a few seconds, I thought that we would be lifting off the freeway as the little Japanese car tore down the road at more than 80 miles along a Panamanian freeway during the middle of the night. Panamanian freeways, unlike U.S. roads, don’t have many overhead signs that at least would provide some light. So, here I was, sitting in a little car while the driver was driving like we were refugees escaping the squad teams.

Why was I in this little Japanese car at this time of the night? I was visiting the house of a new Panamanian friend who lives in Vacamonte, a town outside the city of Panama. I met my new friend (and his best friend) through, yes, a website. That seems to be the norm nowadays for meeting new friends. I don’t think that I am unique in that way, that is, flying overseas to meet people with whom you have started an online friendship. This is kind of an adventure in itself; trying to figure out whether the person on the other side of the digital divide matches the image that one has already preconceived. Sometimes they match, but in the majority of time, you’ll find yourself surprised. The digital divide seems to be good at allowing people create an aura about themselves that crashes down when you finally meet them in person, and words come out of their mouths.

Anyway, where I was? Oh, yes Vacamonte. One of the things that I did not know about my newly acquired friend is that he has an interesting family. His parents were separated and my friend lived with his mother and other siblings. What was more interesting was that they all knew about his sexual orientation and they all seemed to be at ease about it. I have visited other Latin American countries and quite often, there is a divide between a friend’s gay life and family life. So, here we were in the middle of night, having a couple of beers by the courtyard of the house, while salsa and merengue played loudly. It was quite a relaxing atmosphere and I wish that more Latin American families would be the same.

Ah, on a separate note. I discovered an informal transportation system in Panama. It seems that after the public transportation to outlying areas stop working for the night, an informal system of private cars picks up the slack. Usually the drivers live at a specific town and are heading home. So, they just stop at a designated area waiting for passengers heading there too. It is a win-win situation.

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