The Next Adventure: Lost in Panama!

At 10:30 last night I was just about as miserable as could be. And I’ve been in Turkish jail. At the airport I’d carefully copied out Owe’s address and phone number and drawn a map showing the route to the apartment building from the nearest hotel, ostensibly not even two blocks! Owe’d very kindly sent me said map, which I took as a sign that I was to find the place myself and it didn’t seem like it would be hard at all.

Ha!

After the tedium and confusion of customs, I hopped into a cab and asked for the Wyndham. Cabs from the airport are ridiculously expensive- Owe assures me cabs in general all cabs have gringo taxes, and none of them appear to have meters, so negotiate a price before the cab starts moving- but I pulled a fast one with a quick dumb American act. When I asked how much, she said 28 euros. ??!!! I put on my dumbest, most hapless idiot American expression, handed her 28 dollars. I saw her silently grapple with the language barrier and give up. She accepted it. I wrestled my bags away from the helpful door men, headed off in a likely direction.

By the way, at this point I had not had one conversation with anyone in the country in which I did not try to address people in Turkish.

“Makes sense,” Owe said later. “They’re small brown people who say a lot of things you can’t understand.”

“Right?! Why DON’T people respond when I ask them ne kadar and nerede and thank them by saying teşekkular?”

“They’re probably just playing dumb.”

Two hard lessons I learned right away while trudging around in the tropical heat with two huge suitcases: 1 the sidewalks here make Turkish sidewalks look like they were designed by engineering GENIUSES and constructed by old world sidewalk artisans who hold them to the highest standards. There are no ramps, so a few blocks was an exercise in wrestling two bags with, shall we say, underachiving castors, up and down many curbs. The width of sidewalks was uneven- with one stretch alarmingly undulating between just right for hauling two bags side by side and barely wide enough for me, and they were punctuated by odd and maddening obstacles- posts and trees and even huge random holes. And by holes I don’t mean areas of compromised paving, but actual huge, should have a manhole cover over them but for some reason don’t holes, and 2. None, and I mean none of the streets are marked to say what they are. I wheeled up to another hotel to verify I was on the road I thought I was on, and ask if I was going in the right direction. The doorman puzzled over my map, which had the Wyndham and the Panama Casino marked on it, and a big X where Owe’s place was, a few streets over. Then his face lit up when he figured out how to help me.

“Wyndham!” he said triumphantly, and pointed back the way I’d come.

I gently drew his attention back to the street I was aiming for and the X that marked the spot and said, “Evet, ama, şu gitiyorım,” which didn’t help anything at all. I walked on around a corner, and asked another doorman, who puzzled over the directions and then disappeared inside the building, gesturing for me to stay where I was, he’d be back in a minute. He was gone for a cigarette and a half, and evidently hoped I’d have given up and wandered away, cause he looked surprised when he came out and I was still there. He looked at the map again, and finally said,

“Wyndham!” triumphantly and pointed at the hotel, which was still very much in sight.

I flagged down a girl who just LOOKED like she spoke English, and asked to use her phone. She looked at the number I’d copied down for Owe, and informed me it didn’t have enough numbers in it.

Drat.

I crossed the street and went into a convenience store and asked one of the customers. He looked at my map, nodded authoritatively, and told me he didn”t know the street, but from the map it was most surely up that way, probably the next left. So I went that way. On the way a man stopped me to make sure I was okay, (I was not, at that point: I had lost about a gallon of water, I was tired and frustrated and fighting the panic that comes from being exhausted, lost, unable to contact your buddy and starting to become convinced you’ve made a HUGE MISTAKE. ) examined my map, and decided yes, it must be the next left.

I took the next left.

It was into an alley.

I asked another random door guy, who just looked panicked when I tried to show him my map, and said “no!” til I went away. A car stopped at that point and a nice guy asked if I was okay. He looked at my map and in about two seconds determined the problem- I had walked in the exactly opposite direction that I needed to walk.

“So wait, is this street X street?”

“No. This is Y. X is the road that runs perpendicular, down there.”

Three people had told me the opposite. I sighed heavily. My feet were beginning to swell. My shoes were adorable, and fine for navigating airports and sitting in a plane all day and even standing in line in customs, but absolute crap for traipsing around in the heat all day. But I gamely walked back the way I’d come, which was mercifully downhill, and parked my considerable luggage in front of the Wyndham. There a nice taxi man, sensing that I might be near tears (and if I were a crier, I might have been crying at that point) pulled out his gps thing, and showed me that it was a very simple walk, five minutes that way. So I walked five minutes that way, uphill again, and then ten more for good measure, (I was walkin pretty slow at that point,) before giving up and asking yet another doorman, who became immediately alarmed at my apparent state of exhaustion, and set about trying to unravel the mystery. He ushered me into a seat and went  out in the night to see if he could quickly find the place for me, since surely it was right around the corner. He came back ten or so minutes later and shrugged apologetically and said “Sorry!”

Okay. Internet cafe time. I trudged down the hill again, back to the fucking Wyndham, (en route two more doormen, who’d seen me trudge by several times flagged me down and tried to help and I was so DONE with helpful doormen, it was all I could do not to scream “STOP HELPING ME! EVERYONE STOP HELPING ME!”) and went into the internet cafe across the street, where I realized, not pleasantly, that it was 11:30 and I’d been looking for Owe for a. fucking. hour. and a half. Took an additional four or five minutes to get through facebook’s security measures, and I was (this time pleasantly!) surprised to see him online-

“DUDE. I CANNOT FIND YOU. I’ve been literally looking for an hour and half and whatever phone number you gave me doesn’t seem to work. I am at an internet cafe across from the wyndham hotel or whatever it’s called. I am about to pay, walk out of here with whatever scraps of dignity I still possess, cross the street, walk into the hotel, and buy myself a very, very large drink. If it’s not too much trouble, could you please come fetch me before I fall off the barstool and or make a public scene?”

A second later-

“I’m in the lobby of the wyndham!!! I’ve been here since 9:20!”

Oh dear God. I paid, ran outside and crossed the street again, wrestled my way past helpful doormen who all wanted to take my bags and help me get checked in, and there was Owe, who gentlemanlyly grabbed my bags and two minutes later we were in his lovely apartment and he was mixing me a cocktail and all was right with the world.

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One Response to The Next Adventure: Lost in Panama!

  1. Alan says:

    . . so, it isn’t just Turkey where people are so desperate to help that they’ll tell you anything other than ‘I’m a stranger around here, myself!’ Panama – last there for the Jazz Festival 4 years ago

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