Overnight at the Panama Border

We’d just left the house of our couchsurfing host, a successful weekend, we’d say. We walk in the morning sun to the bus stop, sharing the street with others beginning their day. All is well at this point, and we spend the ride observing the rhythms of tropical life. Between the first bus and the border terminal, I don’t remember much. Did we switch buses? We must have, but I forget. In any case, we arrive at the border between Panama and Costa Rica, ready to take on that long ride home to San José.

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It’s now some time after 8 PM and we’ve just gone through customs, hit with the unfortunate news that we’ve missed the last bus to San José. Gahh.

Cuando sale el próximo bus?”

A las cinco en la mañana.”

Super. We now have eight hours to wait for this bus and ningún idea how to spend that time. I suppose we could have looked for a place to stay, but then we’d have to make sure to get back to the terminal in the early morning. We also grappled with the idea of hitching a ride, and I think we semi stuck out our hands to a passing car at one point, but dropped the idea. We decide, then, to just stay put at this here border. Allison and I park ourselves on the second floor of the terminal, all of which is outdoors, by the way, and…we wait. We’re falling asleep, but fighting the fatigue. Again, we’re not protected from any outside forces, except maybe the rain, sort of. There’s a bar around the corner playing loud music, so we decide to find shelter there. To our surprise, the venue is quite large, with more than enough floor space to get some dancing done. We find a place at a table, our bags closely at our sides, and again, we wait.

A few older men try to talk to Allison through me, believing she does not speak Spanish. She does, but that doesn’t matter right now. We meet their advances with little interest, and they leave. At one point, a man asks me to dance, and having nothing better to do at 1 AM, I agree. The same happens to Allison, so we dance, keeping an eye on our belongings. I am not impressed with my dance partner. We are by no stretch professionals, but can a girl get some turns, or something? Anyway, we return to our table, and I fix my eyes on that one woman in white shorts really getting into the bachata. I don’t remember falling asleep, but I do, and Allison informs me of it with a photo.

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Photo by Allison

Unfortunately, the bar closes at 2 or 3 AM, so we find benches on the street, close to the terminal, and for the last time, we wait. At this point, we.are.tired. The both of us slump over our bags, holding on to them tightly, and move in and out of sleep. The streets are silent. A very drunk man stumbles near us, almost falling on Allison laying flat on her bench. He apologizes, gets up, and stumbles away. Slowly but surely, life returns to the streets, and we are quick to make our way to that bus stop. We don’t have tickets and the bus is full, but we need to get home. We get on anyways, pay on the bus, and I find a spot on the floor next to Allison’s leg, who, fortunately, gets a seat. It is uncomfortable, but we are going home. As people get off the bus, I can finally sit, and goodness, we are going home.

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