Random Chance Meeting

Fun Pokemon art I found in our neighborhood.

Fun Pokemon art I found in our neighborhood.

I have always been a supporter of chance; meetings, experiences, friendships. While walking to my “office” aka the Unido Café, I saw a demonstration happening in the local square of Plaza de la Independencia.

Community members were gathered, chanting, huddled against the fence where government guards stood.

At first I thought this was relating to the changes in the Casco neighborhood, the pushing out of local people from this community and the abandoned buildings they sometimes squat in and make their homes. As I got closer a man asked me in Spanish if I knew what was going on. I responded with my meager vocabulary that I spoke English, he then posed the question again so that I could understand. Unfortunately, I told him only what I knew of previous demonstrations here. Upon further investigation, we found out these people were demonstrating against a prisoner who was being moved from one prison to another on an island.

Meet Jonathan! He is originally from Mexico but lives in Panama now and works in archaeology, museum studies and gives amazing Free Walking Tours of historic neighborhoods.

Meet Jonathan! He is originally from Mexico but lives in Panama now and works in archaeology, museum studies and gives amazing Free Walking Tours of historic neighborhoods.

We both had to go, but before we parted ways we found out we had a huge similarity, we were both from the anthropological world. He was an archeologist and I had studied cultural anthropology. Its rare to find people like us. Most, it seems, are confused when they find out what I studied in college, so finding someone with a similar mindset is always a welcome treat. We see the world a little different, through the lens of a scientist.

My favorite abandoned building near Casco. The growing trees and foliage inside reminds me of a scene from Planet of the Apes. What do you think?

My favorite abandoned building near Casco. The growing trees and foliage inside remind me of a scene from Planet of the Apes. What do you think?

His name is Jonathan and he is in the process of creating a new business, FREE walking tours of Casco Viejo, varying in topics and providing a more holistic approach to understanding the neighborhood. So I became his first English-speaking customer! How cool to learn so much about the neighborhood I have lived and explored the last 3 weeks, but through a new perspective.

The Huertas Esteban Walkway. Talking about pirate days of planned attacks on Panama. The rock bed and reef ahead provided great protection from water advances, while the peninsula location allowed for more time and ability to see impeding land encounters.

The Huertas Esteban Walkway. Talking about pirate days of planned attacks on Panama. The rock bed and reef ahead provided great protection from water advances, while the peninsula location allowed for more time and ability to see impeding land encounters.

The most interesting part of Jonathan’s tour were the layers he contributes to the presentation. Not only did he explain the stages of cultures that have been present in the Casco, but I was given the history of a street, or even a building, going from the time it was built, to the ownership it had been passed through down generations or corporations, to the main concept of what its used for today.

Plaza Santana, the outskirts of Casco Viejo

Plaza Santana, the outskirts of Casco Viejo

Because of the rich history involving the construction of the Panama Canal and the international manpower needed to complete the project, not only are the people culturally intertwined, so are the streets, architecture and food.

For the next several hours we walked block after block as I was fed information covering centuries in a matter of minutes. It was an anthropologist’s dream!

In front of the Police Museum, some sort of Police meeting takes place.

In front of the Police Museum, some sort of Police meeting takes place.

Currently Jonathan is working on curating a museum but if you wish to get a walking tour around Casco here is the website. In general, most major cities and tourist attractions have FREE WALKING TOURS being offered, you just have to do a little bit of research. He learned about this concept when visiting Prague, and meeting a Texan woman who was living there doing exactly that, working for tips, such as a beer and shared friendly conversation after the excursion.

There are many ways to travel for very cheap, or almost free. Stay tuned and I will post a blog in the near future about ways to make your money stretch so you can see the world!

Have you ever received a Free Walking Tour on your travels? Please comment below and share your experiences!

Thanks for reading!

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