It seems like all of Panama City is under construction. My dad and I drove through several neighborhoods trying to find a room for me to sublet and everywhere there are men in hard hats in large pits of dirt. In the neighborhood El Cangrejo, most of the rooms I visited were in unfinished apartments. One owner was in the process of turning the apartment’s living room into a large bedroom; a door in the back of the kitchen led to the adjacent apartment, less than halfway completed. (When I finally found a room in a solidly constructed apartment, I put down a deposit immediately.)
In the past three years, the government has begun to renovate Casco Viejo — literally “the old town” — which is home to narrow streets and Spanish colonial architecture. Formerly the city’s downtown, Casco Viejo was abandoned by its wealthy inhabitants in the 20th century and deteriorated into an urban slum. But with the current gentrification/restoration of the area, Panamanian renters are being edged out to make room for whoever will pay the most. It is fascinating to see the juxtaposition of colonial ruins with newly painted tourist attractions.
The rainy season in Panama is no joke. Yesterday we were driving back from Casco Viejo and the sky opened up. Tormentas — sudden rainstorms accompanied by lightning, thunder and torrents — occur every few days during the months of September, October and November. (It is raining as I type this post.) We witnessed three car accidents in two days being driven around on these congested roads.