On a pedestrian overpass, on our way to find SIM cards

Christine and I didn’t spend 3 of our limited checked baggage pounds on our favorite coffee, Highlander Grog, for nothing. After being awakened at 10am by the director of her university knocking on the AirBnB’s door, excited to meet her and handing her a business card and saying “we thought you’d be at our meeting today but then we realized that we had the date wrong!” (she was embarrassed to still be in her pajamas; she had no idea when we answered the door it would be the director), we decided that we needed to wake up, ASAP.

The AirBnB unfortunately didn’t have any kind of regular coffee, just instant coffee and what looked like some kind of fishing net filter that you’d pour stuff through. It was a several hour adventure and discovery of Panama’s chain stores (first Conway, then Doit Center, and lastly Oca Loca – the latter’s mascot is a crazy duck!) before we could hunt down a coffee grinder. Seriously, they had corn grinders that mount on your tabletop at Doit Center, but only Oca Loca had 4 coffee grinders left, hidden in the corner. After two hours of searching, I was overjoyed that the whole-bean coffee could be ground and we could finally have a couple cups. The drip-coffee machine was much easier; all three stores had those for sale.

How can Panama want more corn grinders, than coffee grinders?

Then it was SIM cards and metro cards. The previous night I had thought that maybe Movistar would be the best bet, but then unfortunately after Christine had already taken the plunge and purchased a 1GB plan we discovered that she wouldn’t have 4G LTE, only the decade-old 3G standard. My bad; she had trusted me to do the research. Turns out that other websites have done the research for me; I dropped in the nation of Panama and my phone’s model into their forms, and bingo, it looked like the Claro network would work for both of us! Thanks, FrequencyCheck! Another 30-45 minutes of standing in queues and me trying to talk garbled Spanish-tech-talk, and I had what I felt was a pretty great deal: 4GB of data and 150 minutes for a mere 15 dollars. Compared to my old USA T-Mobile plan of 5GB of data for $30 a month, I was content. Christine decided that she’d eat the $16 she’d already spent at Movistar and got the same Claro plan, too. Oh well.

According to Kary’s ice cream making employees, only a couple metro stations in the entire city sold metro cards. Thankfully one of them had a spare that we could share to get over to Albrook Station on the west end of the single Panama City metro line, where we could spend $2 apiece to get brand new cards and load them up. The public transit systems in Panama seem to be quite cheap; buses are 25 cents a ride and the metro/subway is 35 cents. No transfers though; Christine’s going to need to pay 60 cents each way to get to and from work.

Unfortunately, we’ve learned over the past couple days that food is one of the most expensive things in Panama City. We’ve had time now to wander the streets and see what restaurants are charging; it seems it’s basically impossible to get an entree for less than $7-10 at almost every restaurant. Mentally, I had been assuming and expecting that the prices would be closer to Amman, Jordan’s prices, where I could get a schwarma for a dollar – and did, frequently. Apparently the combination of massive amounts of USA tourism and the flood of Venezuelan economic refugees means that prices have just exploded in the past couple of years.

We’ve learned that lunch is the possible “cheap” meal of the day; we’ll be on the lookout for something called “Executive Lunch” (which I had seen immediately but not paid attention to because the name made me think it would be the opposite of cheap). Basically, the culture and prices of the city cause most local Panamanians to eat home-cooked meals for breakfast and dinner. But – thousands of low-income locals need to work in the richest and highest priced parts of the city every day. The solution is the Executive Lunch, which tends to be a daily special that runs $4-6. Until I can find a job of some kind, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for those… and cooking for us a lot. Still haven’t been to a grocery store though.

We also got Oreo the pit bull a new toy, which he loves.

He growled, spun around, and wagged his tail furiously. Sorry boy, but the floor doesn’t give you much traction!