After a brief mid-week trip to the mountainous region of Boquete, Richard returned on Thursday to spend another weekend in Bocas del Toro. His return coincided with the 13th anniversary celebrations of the opening of La Iguana, one of Bocas’ most popular nightclubs. As we walked in, it became evident there was a theme we hadn’t been told about – wear something white. Richard had chosen a dark grey t-shirt, while I was, completely fortuitously, adhering to the dress code. He was livid. But what can I say? 13 – lucky for some!
Sadly, rain once again shaped our weekend’s activities. After looking at the province’s weather statistics, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. Bocas receives six-and-a-half times more rain than England in the month of December. Still, I was able to show Richard some of my favourite places in the archipelago. First up was a treacherously muddy walk on Bastimientos Island down to Wizard Beach.
The next day we cycled to Bluff Beach and watched the surfers effortlessly glide across the water. The skill levels on show became abundantly clear when I joined them for a swim. The waves, which looked beautiful from the shore, were, on closer inspection, seven feet high. They threw me around like a rag doll in a manner that was both exhilarating yet also terrifying. Back on the safety of the beach, it took some time for my heart rate to return to normal.
We also visited The Blue Coconut, a picturesque bar, on Solarte Island. Christopher Colombus reportedly gave the island its name as he considered it to be an idyllic sun trap. Sadly, more than 500 years later, it failed to deliver for us. Even in the shade, it’s a wonderful place to relax though. There are normally several water hammocks to enjoy, but the downside to the bar’s superb location is that it is cruelly exposed to the volatility of the sea. As a result, the majority of the wooden posts used for the hammocks had been pulverised by the recent storms. Also, watch out for the jellyfish. I was recording some underwater footage and was slowly completing a 360° turn when I suddenly noticed a huge jellyfish on my shoulder. Cue complete, and utterly disproportionate, panic. For the second time in two days, my adrenaline levels shot through the roof.
This is my final week before I return to England on Christmas Eve to see friends and family. After seven weeks in Bocas del Toro, it will be strange to arrive back in wintry England. Habla Ya quickly felt like home to me and the time has flown by. My fellow students, who all live with host families or in nearby hostels, rather than at the school as I do, are always entertained when they find me walking around the building, toothbrush in hand, five minutes before lessons begin. However, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone back in England and to enjoying some home comforts, such as hot showers and my mum’s cooking. My feet will be grateful to return to wearing shoes as well; sharp rocks, ragged decking and concealed roots have all left their mark.
My Spanish has unquestionably improved during my time here. A barman at The Blue Coconut told me my Spanish was excellent, but I suspect he was just after a tip. Language learning is, by its very nature, full of highs and lows. If one moment you are glowing with satisfaction after correctly applying complex grammar rules during a conversation, the next is often filled with frustration as you fail to comprehend a basic question. I’m also very demanding of myself – both a gift and a curse – so I always feel I should be progressing faster than I am. I have to remind myself it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Hopefully over the Christmas break I can regroup, go over all the things I have learned and hit the ground running when I return to Panama on 13th January.