The past few days have been a mixture of disappointment, contemplation, reminiscing, and revelation. I've had a chance to spend a considerable amount of time with my Dad driving around taking pictures and thinking about the old days. I can't express how much things have really changed here. Many places we go, the ones we can get to anyway, no longer look the way they once did. Skyscrapers, overpasses, shopping malls, casinos and the like now pepper once sparsely populated areas. Prices have shot up, along with toll roads, and construction sites. A subway station is being built, large sections of the city's inner sanctum look as though a giant worm has tunneled his way across town. A metro rail is good in many ways, but the project is long, and strains an infrastructure already bursting at the seams. An old tropical landscape slowly transforms into a formidable metropolis like it's Northern counterparts.
Much of what has changed saddens me. It makes me feel even more out of place in life. This was the one place on the planet I felt like I was inherently a part of...at least more than any other. And now, this too has slowly turned its back on me and has begun to walk away. Nostalgic epiphanies notwithstanding, today was exceptionally nice. I went out with my Dad taking pictures, and hiked up a hill that overlooks the whole city...letting the juxtaposition of being in a jungle that towers over a booming city marinate in my mind. After the hike I had fresh empanadas and a papaya milk shake, the familiarity with the native food was comforting...as well as the price.
Earlier in the day my Dad and I had gotten haircuts together. He doesn't have much left, but I admire that he likes to keep what remains well groomed. For only four dollars, I can't blame him. My haircut was as good as I remember them being, but the service was not. I have been sobered by the realization that people do not have as much pride in their jobs as they used to. Difficult to say if this is due to a new generation, a loss of faith in the economy and government, or a result of wealthy foreigners and drug dealers inflating prices and alienating the poorer class.
Taking pictures of my old neighborhoods and those of my childhood friends brought with it a great sense of peace, happiness, and fulfillment. Although I couldn't remember exactly which houses everyone lived in, I could remember how I felt spending time there, which is a million times better. Much of my longing for these earlier times is not entirely because of how the Panama Canal Zone was physically, but also because it represented a simpler life, unfortunately one that no longer exists. I think I'm coming to the realization that this trip has a lot to do with letting go...surrendering to the shift in the cosmic current and shedding regret or desire of an imaginary place on the spectrum of space and time. I too must grow, construct new beginnings, blossom, and to stretch towards the infinite...ever hoping that the foundation holds steady.