First bruised bone. First jellyfish sting. First time falling in a hole in the sidewalk. Travel mishaps took no mercy these past two months.
Our story begins at Uvierto beach, Las Tablas
We had all been swimming for quite some time, no issues at all. As the tide began to come in though, so did other creatures of the sea.
Deciding to go out for one last dip became a regretful choice when I suddenly felt a sharp pain on the lower right part of my booty.
“Oh hell no, I don’t know what this is but it ain’t right. I gotta get outta here,” my mind rushed into escape mode and my body followed promptly. I’m pretty sure I swam straight into the Medusa as I “attempted” to escape.
What initially started as a sharp sting to my right buttock transformed into a sensation I can only describe as electricity sparking through my thighs.
And of course, as soon I appeared in front of everyone to explain what happened, George, our youngest volunteer dubbed as the “son” of our group (I’m Abuela), thought pissing on it would be necessary.
I never found out if pee works, but white vinegar does the trick.
The sting subsided within about a half hour, and by nightfall, I only had one noticeable mark on my upper-left thigh.
I’m not sure if getting stung by a jellyfish is the type of thing to have on a bucket list, but now that it’s happened, I might as well check it off.
Next up: Falling into a sidewalk hole.
It’s not as dramatic as it sounds, but falling in a random hole in the sidewalk nonetheless is not an enjoyable experience.
The hole, about 10 inches and littered with trash at the bottom, is similar to many I’ve encountered — this one just happened to get me. At the very least, it occurred in painted Casco Viejo, Panama City.
So here’s how it goes: I was walking with three other volunteers back to the hostel, chatting it up with a former volunteer when all the sudden — well, let me put it this way.
We’re in mid-conversation. There’s a scream. “Oh shit, I’m not standing anymore.” I’m going down. “Don’t resist,” my mind says. I fall it out, allowing myself to roll off the sidewalk and into the street.
I lay there face-up with three concerned/terrified faces looking at me — their voices asking if I’m okay. And I’m fine. My knee was the only part of me that took a beating from the event.
(The knee bruises and scrapes are also visible in my leg photo above!)
By the way, I wasn’t me who screamed, but Sisi, who described what happened as, “all of the sudden you disappeared.”
Disappeared? No. But I did take a deep step next to someone about five inches taller than me, so the visual of me “disappearing” fits the bill.
I’m glad she told me it was her, because I wasn’t sure if I had made a sound or not. After, the whole thing was hilarious. We laughed for the rest of the walk to our hostel Luna’s Castle.
My next, and last incident, cannot actually be seen in the photo of my legs because it was under my skin — my first bruised bone.
Because who needs a functioning tailbone? For my first month in Panama (all of June), this injury affected my ability to sit, play, and enjoy most activity.
The story though, starts off almost romantic.
My first day in Panama felt like a dream. I began speaking a new language, it was hot as hell, and as soon as I arrived at the hostel the Casa MonaLisa, I spent the first few hours with three guapos. Translation: Handsome men.
We played instruments (okay, I just took the bongos), shared food, they sang, and it was (as I’ll repeat despite writer’s rules), a dream.
That was all until I found myself braced awkwardly along the bottom of the steps with a throbbing elbow, a shocked body, and three painfully-pulsing points along the left side of my back.
So how did my unreal first evening turn into this unfortunate event?
After two of the men I left, I spent some more time upstairs with Raul, a tatted-man who could smoke cigarettes one after the next like I’d never witnessed. I passed the time coloring while he continued to play guitar and sing.
Soon after my first Panamanian rain began, I decided to head back downstairs to my room. The stairs included two small flights that were open to the rain.
Top flight: cleared.
As I approached the bottom flight, I had everything (colored pencils, drawing book, phone, and water), in my hand or under my arm. I held onto the rail with my left hand and began to descend.
Despite being aware of the slippery-ness of the steps, I fell hard.
About two or three steps down, I slipped, fell on my butt, and bounced down the linoleum stairs. The corners of the stairs smashed into my tailbone, my mid-back, and shoulder blade. My things flew everywhere.
When I stopped falling, I couldn’t move and nor did I want to. I was in so much pain and shock I didn’t want to know how bad (or okay) it was.
I’m not the type to cry for help — but this, I was calling out for anyone. The managers and a hostel volunteer rushed to me to help frozen old me stuck on the stairs.
After a short time, they brought me some water (cause what else can you do really?).
My left elbow also took quite a blow, so sitting up and moving it was the first test of seeing if I was okay.
By the next day, my elbow was fine, but my back not so much.
For a week or so I wasn’t sure what the issue was, and although a doctor never confirmed, my online research and experience through the next four weeks resembled that of a bruised tailbone.
In my first month of teaching, “no puedo” became my most popular saying as recess.
Also, the hostel did put grips on the steps right after, and yes, this was the same hostel that had been infiltrated by my scammer. And of course, I went back to stay in my final days in Panama. Full circle, ya’ll.
In all, Panama did work on me. I encountered new ways the world could hurt you, managed to work through them, and learned how to take care of myself in new situations.
With all the positive experiences travel brings us, negative experiences will also come — and as I learned in Panama, it’s all about how we handle them. And at the very least, I look back now and can laugh.
Have you had any ridiculous experiences while traveling? Share them in the comments below!