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Latin America Kevin Dispatch

A Traveler's Paradise: Yummy Food, Hot Showers, and NO COCKROACHES!!!
 

Welcome to Paradise!
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The key to comfortable traveling is being able to feel at home everywhere you stay along the way. So far we've spent nights sleeping with host families, in cheap hotels (with cockroaches), in hammocks, and on buses too. Here in Panama City we've been staying in the Voyager Youth Hostel, really one of the most comfortable places so far.

When we first checked into the hostel, Monica was still back in San Jose, Costa Rica and so the rest of us were able to just fit into a cozy room for four. Our room has two bunk beds. Since Abeja and I were too slow, the two of us got stuck with the top bunks while Shawn and Kavitha snatched the bottom ones. Monica has since joined us and she's having fun chatting with her new roommates. In the evening, our room is a wreck with computer equipment, clothes and books scattered about and hardly any place to walk or sit.

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Kevin enjoys the patio
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There are many great things about this hostel that make it so comfortable for us. First of all, it's the first place we've stayed at that has free Internet access available anytime of day. We're very grateful to have this luxury since we must keep in close contact with our home base in the U.S. and send or receive e-mails as often as possible. Secondly, the hostel stay includes free breakfast each morning, usually coffee, tea, toast, jam, and fresh pineapple or banana. Everyone eats their meals on the patio that is open to the breeze and yet sheltered from the sun--a perfect place to gather and just chill out. We've found it to be just the place to sit and write about Panama and our experiences. Another highlight is the fully equipped kitchen where we've been cooking great lunches and dinners every day. International travelers often go for weeks without being able to cook. Having a kitchen and a grocery store down the street is a real treat. At night the kitchen is packed with people, some cooking vegetarian dishes, others frying up meat, but everyone is usually willing to share whatever they've prepared in exchange for someone else's creations.

Proud owners of the Voyageur Hostel
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The hostel is one of the cleanest I've ever seen. There are two bathrooms and two showers, and even with the large kitchen, we haven't seen one cockroach yet. There's often a line for the showers since it's so hot here (although there is hot water, hardly anybody bothers to use it). On the average, most people take at least two or three showers a day, a rather pleasant change from the "one shower every three days" policy that backpackers are often forced into while on the road. Luckily there's a washer and dryer, too, which is badly needed for clothing that's been washed by hand for weeks or even months.

Kevin making international friends
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Right now there are travelers from many countries staying in the hostel such as Norway, Germany, Israel, Denmark, Canada, Scotland, France etc. Many of them are stuck here in Panama City because they're trying to catch a boat to Columbia. We've all put up signs at the Yacht Club and talked to people in the central market in hopes of finding a cheap ride, or work on a boat out of here. In the meantime, we must wait patiently. Passing the time is made easier because there's a small collection of books in the hostel that anyone is welcomed to read. A sign posted states that you can read anything while in the hostel, but if you wish to take a book with you, you must leave one in return. This works out nicely for visitors who have finished one book and are looking to trade it for another. But as if talking to people from around the world and reading from a free library weren't entertaining enough, every night at 6:30 and again at 11:00 a gathering forms around the television as voyagers from around the world come to watch...The Simpsons. It airs in the English language version and is not only hilarious to watch with such a diverse crowd, but can also be a meaningful way for foreigners to improve their English while traveling.

Another day goes by and we Trekkers eagerly await a call from a captain of a ship or the owner of a private yacht just like the so many others in the hostel. Fortunately the Voyager Youth Hostel is a safe and comfortable place to rest up for now, despite our uncertainty of what the next couple of weeks will bring.

Kevin

Abeja - The Darién Gap: Blow-darts, Guerrillas, and a Mother's Worst Nightmare
Team - HELP! Does Anyone Know How To Get Out Of Panama?!?
Shawn - Panama: The Fifty-first State
Kavitha - American Involvement in Panama: A Just Cause but an Unjust Result
Monica - Twenty-Two Reptiles, Toucans, and a Thousand Plants: Biodiversity in Panama
 
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