August 4th, 2011 9:09am—Goddamn Penises

After Lynn left for Colombia, Gonzales and I went north with Ali G—our tent—and a bottle of Flor de Caña rum. As we were crossing borders and didn't want the bottle confiscated, I ensconced the rum with dirty shirts and socks in my bag. I'd been washing my clothes in the sink with soap, and they didn't smell fantastic. We traveled from Panama City via taxi and bus and found ourselves overnight in San José, Costa Rica. 
San José was overrun with American tourists, largely between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. Though it was July, it seemed like spring break (woo-hoo) for college students on coke. We weren't enthralled. As backpackers in our mid-twenties, we clearly had superior traveling status. We were experiencing the world on limited budgets. The American tourists were experiencing inflated Costa Rican prices and the same college scene from the states, albeit in a foreign country. 
When we discovered that the showers had hot water and soap, we thought we were in the lap of hostel luxury. When we paid $8US for two beers at Hostel Pangea, our residence for the night, we knew we were in the wrong place. We missed poor backpackers and dollar beers at Luna's Castle. While the crazy Americans in the hostel got drunk on $4 beers, Gonzales and I laid down on orange and red couches and watched t.v. 
It would have been nice and relaxing, except that the t.v. shows were in Spanish and the live drunken background screams of college-age tourists were in English. I couldn't understand Spanish as it was, much less interpret foreign language television show plot. We turned it to The Simpsons. 
Instead of the tentative tent-on-beach plan we had vaguely discussed, Gonzales wanted to go directly to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, stay at Hostel PachaMama, and fall into the delicious life-encompassing black hole that she described San Juan del Sur as. 
"Some people mean to stay for two days in SJDS and they stay two weeks. Others mean to stay for a week and they stay for a month. Some people just never leave. It's like a black hole of heaven," Gonzales told me. 
She said there were a fruit market and beaches, backpackers running around barefoot and ladies nights at the bars. She listed off people that she had met in San Juan del Sur when she had been there a few months prior. The names meant nothing to me, but I was excited.
"Sounds good, let's go stay at PachaMama," I said. 
I envisioned PachaMama's owner as a kindly older woman who was as wide as she was tall. I thought she must look like a roly poly. I fantasized about her cooking a meal or two for me. Traditional, home cooked Nicaraguan food. I drooled.
Gonzales and I left our air-conditioned room and the hot showers and mindbogglingly expensive cerveza of Hostel Pangea and got to the bus stop at the unholy time of 6am. The first bus out was at 6am. When I realized that my clock had been an hour early and it was actually 5am, I shrugged off my backpacker bag, dropped it on the concrete floor of the bus terminal, smiled a sad smile at Gonzales, and sat on the backpack. 
"I'm sorry," I said. "All of these border crossings and one-hour time changes are messing me up."
"It's okay, this way we can eat breakfast!" Gonzales replied.
At that moment, I realized that my vagina was wet. And pools of liquid were issuing forth from my bag onto the concrete. When the sweet, tangy flavor of Flor de Caña rum hit my nostrils, I screamed.
"The rum!"
"Not the rum!" Gonzales shouted. 
I had managed to break the thick, seemingly impenetrable glass bottle inside my bag. 
"Well, if anything, my clothes probably smell better now," I said as I contemplated laying on the concrete and licking up spiced rum. 
Seven hours later, we walked across the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border at Penas Blancas. Luckily, Gonzales had done this desolate, confusing, fuck of a crossing before. The Tica bus let us out and disappeared. Usually the customs offices for border crossings are next to each other. They're typically at least within eyesight. Not that one. We received exit stamps from Costa Rica from the inside of a shack, walked what seemed like a mile through the dust and light rain in tropical humidity, searched for Nicaragua's customs office, and found it solely because Gonzales recognized a yellow building, a blue building, and a near indistinguishable passageway in between some other buildings. At that moment, Gonzales became God, and I, a dutiful worshiper. 
We caught a chicken bus to Rivas and then to San Juan del Sur. The owner of PachaMama was not the portly grandmother type. The owner was a man in his late twenties who had blue/green eyes, shoulder-length surfer hair and quasi-rippling muscles. He wore a baseball hat, board shorts, tank tops or tee-shirts and flip flops, and had previously gone to Washington State University. 
The PachaMama "home" that Gonzales had referred to was not home in the comforting, motherly way, but rather in the welcoming, accepting, no-judgements-passed backpacker party scene. PachaMama felt like home because it was a haven for the weary, the tired, and the drunk. The front desk receptionists were backpackers from around the world who had decided to stay in San Juan del Sur just a little longer, the owner was from the U.S., and though the pots and pans were falling apart and you were lucky to locate a fork in the kitchen, PachaMama brought people together.
On one of our first nights in San Juan del Sur, a plethora of girls from PachaMama capitalized on Ladies' Night. Ladies' Night meant ladies drink free at one bar from 8pm-11pm, at another from 9pm-10pm, and free at another from 9:30pm-10:30pm. Ladies' Night was awesome. And dangerous. Awesome in that we made friends easily and got intoxicated for free. Dangerous in that if you're not paying for drinks, you find yourself a lot less likely to count beers and pay attention to consumption and levels of intoxication. Especially if dancing is involved. 
As Nicaragua wasn't known for being the safest place in the world, every night a handful of girls and I would only take out limited funds. We weren't usually paying for drinks, so our money was typically reserved for late-night hot dog stands and cigarettes. 
My second night in San Juan del Sur, three other girls and I had been drinking for hours. It was three in the morning and none of us had any money left. One of the girls, Amy, logically decided that she wanted juice. 
"I really want juice, you guys. Do you guys want juice? I really want juice."
I shrugged. I guessed I could use some juice. The bartender wouldn't give Amy any for free (she tried), so we walked out on the bar's back deck and looked at the ocean. 
I sat on a slab of concrete next to two of the girls while another sat across from us in a plastic chair. A local guy sat down next to me. He didn't say anything, but he nodded at me.
"Do you like juice?" Amy asked him, leaning across me. "Can we get some juice? Can we share some juice with you?"
Local nodded but didn't get up. One of the other girls said something and I turned to her to respond. That's when the Nicaraguan man touched my arm. I looked over at him to find that he had removed his dick from his pants. Penises are not pretty to look at. This one was disturbingly revolting. It was flaccid and slumped over. It was almost black in color and inexplicably had some hair on it. It was uncircumsized and looked like a giant slug. I screamed, "Put it away, put it away. Oh my God, he has his penis out."
"No, no, it's juice," he said, pointing. "Juice inside. Juice inside."

July 31st, 2011 2:08pm—Cock or Bollocks

I was a month into my Central American trip, and instead of being north in Nicaragua or Honduras, I was precisely where I had started: Panama City. I hadn't even left Panama. However, I was with the Bocas crew for a few more days, so I was happy.
As a transportation hub, Panama City goes everywhere. Within a few days, Kiwi was flying back to New Zealand, Lynn to Colombia, and the Brits were boarding a sailboat from the San Blas Islands to Colombia. Gonzales and I were going north with our tent, which we had named Ali G.
We rocked up to Luna's Castle, my second stay at that hostel, and I confidently approached the desk. Gonzales, Lynn and I didn't have reservations, but everyone else we were with did.
"It's okay, I stayed here last time, we can definitely get beds," I confidently announced.
We couldn't get beds. Luna's Castle didn't even have sleeping room in their movie theater or lounge areas. I tried another approach. I said that we had reserved three beds and we needed the accommodation we had planned for. Oddly enough, there was nothing reserved in our name, and they still didn't have beds.
"Listen to me, there's another hostel a few blocks away," they said.
We didn't listen. Instead, each of us shared a twin-sized mattress in a dorm room bunk bed with those who actually had reservations. Gonzales and her Mexican blanket shared with one of the English guys, I hopped in with Kiwi, and Lynn with one of the girls.
The next night was the fourth of July. The guys all took off. I was in Panama City with Lynn, Gonzales and a British girl, Becks. When we awoke, Gonzales and I (the two Californians) looked at each other with shining eyes.
"Happy fourth of July!" we said.
We hugged.
Lynn added, "May the fourth be with you."
"And also with you."
We went to the bus terminal, which also happened to have a mall in the complex. Becks was on a mission. She bought useful things. She purchased a water-resistant watch and camera to use while diving. Lynn, Gonzales and I bought colorful body crayons. We wanted to decorate our bodies for the 4th. While in the taxi to the mall, at the mall, and in the taxi back, we randomly screamed, "Happy fourth of July!" to unsuspecting Panamanians. They looked confused.
When we followed it up with, "May the fourth be with you," they looked downright baffled.
"And also with you" was said in a quieter tone, sometimes accompanied by a religious gesturing across our chests in a cross motion.
The fourth of July in Panama City had become a religious experience.
When we returned to Luna's Castle, we embarked on a grand American 4th of July tradition: we drank beer. The beer at the hostel was usually cold, frequently restocked, and cost a dollar. I busted out a pack of cards and after a few rounds of Fuck the Dealer, we saw Ray Ray. He had been on the free catamaran, free beer extravaganza with us in Bocas del Toro. Ray Ray was another Brit who had long blond shaggy hair, was a few inches shorter than me, and felt no inhibitions towards indecent exposure.
As we drank, he showed us naked photos of himself taken around the world. Some were at iconic sites, like the Parthenon and Big Ben. Others were in front of canyons or waterfalls. All revealed shocked expressions on the faces of those in the background.
By 8pm, Gonzales had passed out at the table in the middle of the hostel's common area.
"Gonzales OUT!" Lynn and I maturely repeated to each other, screaming. 
 We covered Gonzales with cerveza-soaked playing cards before escorting her to bed. And then we covered ourselves in red, white and blue body crayons. 
Lynn was a contradictory combination. She had "Canadian" written in red down one arm, "Honorary Cali" in blue and black down another arm,"USA" in red near her eyes, and "4 July 2011" in white on her back. I believe we were trying to write "Honorary Californian," but, in our drunken revelry, didn't space the letters appropriately. Thus, "Honorary Cali."
I had "USA" written on every available epidermis location, my cheeks included, and an American flag on my face. I wasn't very creative. 
Becks participated in the color spectacle by writing "To the empire" in blue down one of her arms. Damn Brits. In retrospect, I should have written "We beat the empire" somewhere on my body. 
In true exhibitionist fashion, Ray Ray was naked before 9pm. We were still at the banquet table in the hostel's common room. Everyone in the hostel frequented the main room, because there were bathrooms, access to the kitchen and some rooms, a yellow and red 5-gallon water jug, the reception area, and, most importantly, beer. At one point, small children came out to get water. They stared at Ray Ray, who had his cock in one hand and his bollocks in the other. 
Lynn and I continued to scream "Happy 4th of July," "May the fourth be with you," "And also with you" to passersby who didn't immediately comprehend the astounding significance of the day. Becks shouted, "To the empire!" with regular frequency. 
Ray Ray introduced us to a game called Cock or Bollocks, revolving specifically on his cock and bollocks. Lynn and I were fascinated by the concept. Becks affirmed the popularity of the game by saying that she'd seen it played countless times: at house parties, at bars, in the woods. It's something of an English vocation. You really can't blame them. It always raining in that country. 
I'm still not entirely sure what the game consists of, but as I understood it, cock or bollocks comprises a naked man grabbing his penis in one hand, balls in another, and lightly pinching the skin near either his cock or his balls. The participants in the game had to guess whether he was pinching his penis or his balls. This resulted in us sitting around the table, alternately screaming "cock" or "bollocks." Whoever guessed wrong had to drink. 
We drank. A lot. Lynn had to leave the next morning for a boat to Colombia. Even though we woke up late, it was still at some ungodly hour that Gonzales and I staggered outside with Lynn to see her off. I wore one sandal, as I had lost the matching one the night before.
Waving good-bye to Lynn, I almost cried. I may have still been intoxicated. Then Gonzales and I gathered the explosion of our belongings from the hostel and prepared to journey north. I never found my other sandal.

July 27th, 2011 3:03pm—July 2011 Quote of the Month

Random Backpacker: "If you smoke like a chimney and drink like a fish, I'll be your friend."

July 23rd, 2011 9:03am—From Playa Venao to Panama City

I've never understood the impulse some males have to quasi-choke a female while in the midst of naked intimate time. I don't particularly appreciate being choked. I like breathing.
I had noticed a 6'4" man strutting around Playa Venao with shoulder-length, wavy blonde hair, straight, white teeth and blue eyes. He looked like he worked out. He surpassed my estimation of a Grecian god. If I hadn't jumped into the ocean every four minutes to cool off, I imagine I would have noticed my underwear get wet upon eye contact with him. He knew his superior physical specimen status. I could tell by the way he walked. And how he looked at girls. I did what any smart girl would do: I ignored him. I did check him out all day, though. That night, he sat next to me by the bonfire in front of our tent. It was a good thing that I had ignored him. We couldn't have spoken anyway. He was German but grew up in Argentina. I certainly didn't know any German. After months in Central America, my language capacity exhausted itself at half sentences of Spanish. He did know a few English words and phrases: "butt fucking," "fuck," and "my house." I'd ask him a question and he'd respond with some variation of these words. He was a sweet-talker. I gave in to the inevitable: I left with him. He wasn't pleased when I refused him anal sex. He feigned ignorance and still tried to stick it in my butt. I knew he understood the word no. It's the same in Spanish. 
The next morning, I walked back along the beach in the general direction of the tent. I passed gypsies displaying boards of jewelry, vendors selling shirts and hats, and people handing out advertisements for different parties. For the first time, there were crowds. I didn't know how far into the competition we were, or how many days we'd been camping on the beach. I didn't even have a concept of time. I just knew that every time I saw someone sporting apparel from the U.S., I'd chant, "Team USA. Team USA. Team USA!" 
I had just decided that German was alright regardless of the choking and anal penetration attempts when I saw two of the Bocas girls playing beach volleyball. The Aussie and Austrian girls were dressed accordingly in bathing suit tops and midget shorts. The rest of the Bocas crew was in Playa Venao. 
It wasn't difficult to locate everyone. There were a total of three bar/restaurants on the beach. They were at the second one. Gonzales had passed out on one of the white couches while everyone else sat around drinking beer and catching up.
"Gonzales...OUT!" I yelled as a welcome to the Kiwi, Aussie, and Brits. We shared hugs all around. For days, I had been using the ocean in place of a shower, but I had brushed my teeth the day before, so I felt confident that my friends wouldn't notice any stench. 
I was just sad that the Canadian girls weren't with them. I missed watching them share one cigarette between the two of them. They were under the impression that by sharing, they were actually smoking less. Instead, they just smoked twice as much. I missed staring at the honed muscles of the marathon runner. Not that I have any lesbian tendencies. I just fully appreciate when women have something that I don't, like marathon muscles, or breasts. 
There had been some drama in Panama City when seeing the Canadian girls off. The Kiwi had previously hooked up with one of the other girls in the group. He told her one night in Panama City that he was going to go with a Kiwi backpacker that he had hit it off with. He thought he was being a gentleman. In defense of the girl, the Aussie threw a bucket of water on the Kiwi while he was sleeping in the hostel. The Kiwi put his fist through a door. He got kicked out of the hostel. Something like that. Regardless, the vibe wasn't entirely harmonious when we all met up. 
The Austrian and Aussie regularly disappeared to cavort with the surfers. Lynn, Gonzales and I regularly hitched rides to Pedasi, the town where everyone else from Bocas was staying. 
One day, we hitchhiked and joined some gypsies in the back of a truck for the ride to Playa Venao. They were selling handmade jewelry. The guy had dark dreadlocks down his back and the woman was covered in tattoos. When it started pouring down rain, they busted out plastic sheets that we held above our heads to keep from getting soaked. They shared with us. Years ago, I was skeptical about anyone with dreadlocks. As it turns out, people with dreadlocks are awesome. 
The man who was driving pulled under a store's roof. The walls of the building were painted lime green. We listened to the rain pinging off of the corrugated iron roof and watched the water collect in swirling masses on the road. 
One night, we sat in one of the rooms in Pedasi passing around a joint and laughing when the Aussie and Austrian girls fell through the door. They were soaking wet.
"What in bloody hell happened to you lot?" one of the British guys asked.
They boomeranged off every possible object in the room. 
"We were with hot surfers!" The Austrian announced. "We went in a pool, and I don't know where my bottoms went. They're gone. We were drinking and dancing and my bottoms are gone and we were drinking and dancing. People were having sex!" 
"Standard," the Aussie bellowed.
"Sex and surfers and drinking and no bottoms. No bottoms."
"Standard," repeated the Aussie.
Through this incredibly detailed approach to questioning, we didn't learn anything else. But we laughed and giggled in the haze of being high. The Austrian showered with her shorts and bathing suit top on and the Aussie repeated, "Standard" after every statement of the evening's antics.
We passed the days drinking on the beach with the surfers in the background. When we'd run out of booze, Lynn, Gonzales and I would buy red wine at the one convenient store on the beach. After trying to open the bottle with our teeth, Gonzales's Mexican blanket, and a knife, we finally gave in and bought a proper bottle opener from the store. 
By the end of the week, everything that I owned reeked of the ocean and booze and cigarettes. I had a length of purple cloth that I got in India in 2009 which I wrapped around my body to wear as a dress. I was delusional. It didn't look like a dress, it looked like a cloth. It kept falling down. I continually flashed people. I traveled from Playa Venao to Pedasi to Panama City in that purple Indian cloth. The next day I realized that in the sun, the cloth was see-through. The sun had been shining for the past two days. 

July 20th, 2011 12:42pm—Prefiero la Playa

Two nights before the rest of the Bocas crew showed up in Playa Venao, Lynn, Gonzales and I made friends with some natives. More people pitched tents on the beach, and the tent next to ours housed a few Panamanian guys. They had fancy commodities, like air mattresses and sleeping bags. They even had a truck. The most extravagant thing we had was Gonzales's Mexican blanket. We were still peeing in the ocean and eating whatever scraps of food we found in our tent.
At night, we built bonfires. By we, I mean primarily the Panamanians. I watched. I learned all kinds of things. I learned that lighter fluid exists in developing countries, "Que tal?" means "What's up?" and that there were cops everywhere. The cops weren't looking to arrest us or anything, they just stopped by the bonfire to say hi. They also looked for elicit acts. They just wanted free, live porn. 
Lynn liked her men foreign and exotic. I liked my boys white. Lynn was hooking up with a Chilean man on the beach when she noticed ten flashlights shining on her and the man. There was nakedness. They were surrounded by cops. When the cops told them that they needed to move their amorous actions to the bushes, she responded, "Prefiero la playa." When the cops continued standing over her with their flashlights, she announced, "Prefiero la playa." When she walked away from the cops, she screamed "Prefiero la playa!" shaking a fist in the air. She didn't want to move to the bushes, she preferred the beach.
A few nights later, the Kiwi and I were hooking up on the beach when we were similarly surrounded by cops with flashlights. There was nakedness. Though I was tempted to yell "Prefiero la playa," I settled with taking a picture on their ATV instead.
That night, Lynn, the Kiwi and I slept in the tent. The Kiwi molested Lynn's breasts. I was just sad that I didn't have a pillow. 

July 17th, 2011 9:20am—A Kiteboard Roll and a Flash

Lynn, Gonzales and I got to the weeklong competition so early that aside from the surfing competitors and those working the event, we were pretty much the only women. We were definitely the only gringas. 
The tent's fabric walls weren't exactly sun resistant. We woke up with the sun, bathed in the ocean, brushed our teeth with a bottle of water on the sand, and then started drinking. Typically all before 7am. 
It didn't matter that my hair turned into a rat's nest of half-developed dreadlocks, or that my bottom lip got sunburnt and looked like a hive of bees had attacked it. As the only 20-something female gringas, we were hot stuff. 
The three of us frequently made the trek along the beach from our tent to the bars. There weren't public restrooms, so we'd urinate in the ocean and sneak into a bar/restaurant's bathroom for anything else. I looked in a mirror a total of three times over the course of the week. The first time I looked a bit deranged, the second, homeless, and the third time, instead of crying, I shrugged and continued drinking. 
When we walked along the beach the announcers temporarily suspended their commentary of the surfers and yelled insightful things like, "Gringas!" and "Bonitas chicas!" Those were the only words I understood, at least. Lynn walked up to the reporters and had entire conversations with them. They even laughed. I can tell if someone actually understands the language by whether the person nervously laughs and shortly walks away, or stands and talks with natives, engaging in laughing on both sides. I nervously laughed and walked away. Sometimes I ran. During this time my Spanish knowledge slightly increased. Not on a daily basis, but every week I'd pick up another word or two and feel like a language superstar. 
On one of these early days of the event, Lynn, Gonzales and I walked back to our tent for lunch. Along the way, a guy stood on the beach alone, holding an American flag. As proud drunken Americans, we repeatedly chanted "Team USA!" as we got closer. We took a picture with that professional surfer. No big deal. 
If we remembered to eat, lunch comprised whatever we could find. That day, we had a can of tuna, cans of beans and corn, some tortillas, hot sauce, and Cheetos that appeared to be on steroids. We combined it together, tried to consume as little sand as possible, and called it a success. 
As we sat in front of the tent, slightly swaying in happy drunken revelries, we noticed a kiteboarder struggling in the waves. I couldn't tell if he was drowning, but the kite was disconnected from the board. The man wrestled with the kite while the board appeared and then disappeared in the ocean. I pointed and turned around to tell the girls we should help him. Lynn had already taken off. As previously mentioned, she had massive gazongas. She ran down the beach in her bathing suit, oblivious to the stares. Nobody watched the kiteboarder, the attention was on the bouncing titties. I thought about getting up, but decided being a spectator would not only be more fun, it would be easier. 
Without a word to the man, Lynn sprinted into the ocean after the board. And then she disappeared. The waves knocked her down. She reappeared in a flying leap onto the board and clutched it in her arms. The waves came, she stood up, and then fell down. All I saw were her feet in the air. She did an entire rotation in the water before emerging, dragging the board behind her. It was the first kiteboard roll I have ever had the privilege of witnessing. 
Lynn talked to the guy for a few minutes and then walked back to the tent.
"That guy was kind of weird," she said. "He thanked me but didn't make eye contact."
"That's because one of your boobs has been hanging out since you got out of the water."

July 13th, 2011 5:56pm—Gonzales OUT

From Bocas del Toro, Panama, I had planned on taking a chicken bus north to the border of Costa Rica.
From there, I'd continue north to more crime-ridden countries, like Nicaragua and Honduras. I don't give in easily to peer pressure, and though various people staying at Aqua Lounge revealed a myriad of reasons I should return south with them, if I want to do something, I typically do it. Gonzales (a Cali girl with Mexican parents), and Lynn, a Canadian with five siblings, sat me down one night.
"You should come back through Panama with us," Gonzales said.
"Na, I need to go north. I want to get to the Bay Islands and get my scuba diving certification."
"Do that after Panama. We're going to an international surfing competition."
"If you come south with us, we'll watch surfers for a week, spend the 4th of July in Panama City and then I'll go north with you," Gonzales reasoned.
"Surfers," Lynn smiled.
"I'm in!" I yelled.
The ninth beer I was on told me this was a good idea.
The rest of the Aqua Lounge crew went to Panama City to see off the Canadian girls, and then planned to meet up with me, Gonzales, and Lynn in Playa Venao.
We took a water taxi from Bocas del Toro to Almirante, and a 4.5 hour bus ride from Almirante to David. Gonzales awoke Lynn and I the next morning by sitting up in bed and screaming "Tent!"
"Tent?" I asked, blinking my contacts into place.
"Tent!" she repeated.
"Camping!" Gonzales yelled.
Backpacking around Central America was clearly improving our vocabulary and use of multiple-word sentences.
We split a three-person tent for twenty-two dollars, caught a bus to Las Tablas, a taxi to Pedasi, and we were almost to Playa Venao.
At this point, I knew maybe ten Spanish words, three of which were mas cerveza and baño. Those words go nicely together, so I was content. Though both Gonzales and I grew up in California and Gonzales grew up with Spanish-speaking parents with English as a second language, combined we still knew less than Lynn. A Canadian had better Spanish than we did. She was basically fluent and a goddess. Her foreign language skills were the primary reason we got to Playa Venao. I couldn't have negotiated two bus rides and a taxi. I barely knew the name of the place we were going. I just knew that there were surfers, and we had a tent.
I do have skills in locating English-speaking people. When we arrived in Pedasí, the girls sat at the bus stop while I went on an adventure to find out how to get to the beach. We didn't want to pitch our tent in the middle of the street in the town of Pedasí. We had fantasies of sleeping in our tent on the sand, poking our heads out of the tent, and watching surfers. When I say surfers, I mean professional surfing. And surfers. 
I wandered around the streets and found a woman. She told me that most of the surfers stayed in Pedasí and took the half hour ride to Playa Venao in team vans. Gonzales, Lynn and I caught a cab. We rocked up onto the beach with our tent. It wasn't until we pitched it that we realized it was a three person tent for tiny little Central Americans. In North American terms, it was a one or two person tent.
We had stocked up on bottles of rum in Pedasí, so we were still happy. When you're drunk enough, it doesn't matter where you sleep. We figured we'd pass out on each other. Gonzales and Lynn both have massive boobs, so I knew I'd at least have a pillow.
Our first night at Playa Venao, we drank. One would think that because I'd been drinking heavily for the better part of a decade, I'd know my alcoholic limits. One would think the same of Gonzales. At 8pm, Gonzales announced that she was going to the tent to pass out. We were a quarter of a mile down the beach at one of the three beachside restaurant bars. When Lynn and I checked on her at 10pm, we found her halfway in the tent.
"Well, at least her head's inside," Lynn pointed out.
"She couldn't quite make it all the way in? What'd she do, bend over to crawl inside and then collapse?"
"Gonzales is OUT!" yelled Lynn.
"Gonzales OUT," I agreed.

July 9th, 2011 5:18pm—Free Catamaran, Free Beer

I awoke a few mornings later to screaming.
"Free catamaran! Free beer! Get your asses up!"
I heard cheering. I walked out to a mass of people shouting the glorious news. One of the British guys cried in a hammock.
"It's the best day ever," he sobbed.
I was as elated as on my seventh birthday, when my wildly intoxicated uncle gave me a hamster. He hadn't previously cleared it with my parents. 
I was still drunk from the night before (in Panama, not when I was seven), and the extent of my thought process was, free beer on a catamaran for a day in the Caribbean? Yes, please! 
I'd venture to say that of the twenty of us backpackers, one person knew passable Spanish. She was a goddess. She ordered things for me. She held conversations for me. She told me that some people were trying to start a catamaran tour that looped from Bocas down to San Blas and eventually to Colombia. They had recently acquired the catamaran and needed promo shots. We had to sit on the catamaran all day and drink free beer in exchange for some guy taking photos of us. It was as awesome as it sounds. 
A few of the backpackers were skeptical, but they got tossed into the boat by those of us who were looking forward to continuing the boozehound that had become our lives.
I can't tell you the catamaran's name, nor can I thank the company that enabled our alcoholic tendencies, because I don't remember. I do know that the name of the catamaran had something to do with San Francisco, CA. It may have been named San Francisco, CA. I had lived in the city for five years, and thus felt superior to everyone else on the catamaran.
"This is my boat!" I proudly announced to everyone, sipping my eighth Balboa.
"It's not a boat, Kara. It's a catamaran. And they own it." Someone pointed to a man and a woman. 
"Well, it's my city," I replied.
A guy threw me overboard. Luckily, the catamaran was anchored. I still almost drowned. I got thrown off the front, and the ladder to board was in the back. It was a big catamaran, and the only physical activity I had accomplished in the past few months was moving my arm from my drink to my mouth. Sadly, that doesn't build up much muscle. Or endurance.
Some of the girls in our group posed. Not for promotional shots, just for our own amusement. One of the Canadians did the "I'm the Queen of the World" pose. We tried a woman pyramid. I drank excessively while the Kiwi did backflips off the side. I could barely swim, so I was very impressed with Kiwi. He only landed on his head once. 
Kiwi got shown up by a small uni-sex child with curly blonde luscious locks. I say uni-sex because the three-year-old wasn't wearing a shirt, and was clearly too young for breasts to come in yet. It was either going to be a gorgeous woman or a smoking hot man. We weren't child molesters, so we weren't going to strip the daring little sexy baby. 
Instead we asked it determining questions like, "What's your favorite color, baby?"
"Well, that doesn't bloody help. Do you like dolls or G.I. Joes?"
"Hmmm. Do you want to be a mommy or a daddy someday?"
"I love my mommy and daddy!"
Clearly, we didn't get anywhere.
The kid was incredible. It did acrobatics in the air. It started out on the side of the catamaran in a hand stand, summersaulted in the air, completed what looked like a flying squirrel, summersaulted again, and dove without a splash. 
Granted, the tiny little body structure allowed for more air time to complete insane tumbling stunts, but I knew I was looking at a future Olympian diver. With my child obsession, you'd think through my drunken, happy haze that I would have at least gotten the kid's phone number. 

July 6th, 2011 10:30am—Pepper Sprayed in Bocas

Back to coke. It wasn't unusual to emerge from my dorm room in the morning to see someone of our orgy and drug cartel doing lines off one of the long wooden tables usually meant for more civilized things, like breakfast, dinner, or drinking games. However, it was more common to cram seven people into a one-person bathroom and take turns doing lines off of the toilet. Three people would wait in the shower, and when the time came to alternate position, it was like being a part of a mentally disabled circus act. At one point, a guy was on a girl's shoulders while someone cried in the fetal position on the floor. 
During the day, we'd snorkel, take a water taxi over to Red Frog Beach or Wizard Beach, play card games, and drink or do illegal substances. During the night, we'd drink and do illegal substances.
One night, most of the group headed over to La Iguana again, while I decided to stay with Dat, Seanog, Ed, the giant leprechaun, and a few others to get more debilitated at Aqua Lounge off the card game Fuck the Dealer before going across the water. I almost fell into the Caribbean three times. Once when getting into the boat, once when exiting, and once while sitting down. The ocean wasn't rough. There weren't waves. I'd been drinking heavily for four hours and the dribbling and slobbering was setting in more quickly than if a horse tranquilizer had been shot directly into my blood stream. 
As I walked gingerly into the bar, I told myself to hold it together and try not to fall over. The year before, I had lost half of my front tooth by falling over in New Zealand under similar circumstances. I counted my steps and internally chanted encouragement and praise to myself. I just needed to get inside the bar where I could sit down. 
And then someone knocked me over. A crazy girl came tearing out of the bar, crying hysterically, screaming, and holding her face in her hands. One second I was concentrating on the ground and my feet, congratulating myself on walking with the grace of a celestial being. The next second the girl bumped into and ricocheted off of me. I crashed into the ground while she continued on, holding her face, yelling, and crying. 
It was Stacey, one of the Canadian girls. This girl ran marathons. She had been drunk, haggling with a drug dealer in the bar. Sober people bargain over drugs in somewhat discreet places, like sidewalks or the corners of rooms. Stacey had been negotiating in the exact middle of the bar. Normal people agree over the price in a civilized manner. She had yelled at him that he was overcharging and she would never pay that much. Cops entered and pepper-sprayed both the drug dealer and the Canadian. They threw the dealer in jail overnight, and Stacey sprinted from the bar like a crazy person.
A half hour later she returned. 
"You know it's a good night when you get pepper-sprayed by a cop while bargaining with a drug dealer in Panama, eh?"
"Standard. But we're going to have to teach you how not to yell for drugs in the middle of a public place," the Aussie told Stacey.
The next night was a cocktail of coke, dancing, drinking, and midnight swimming. By midnight swimming, I mean being shoved off of Aqua Lounge's deck thirteen times, sometimes by people we didn't know. And by midnight swimming, I mean closer to four in the morning. I put myself to bed at 6am by falling asleep in a hammock. I woke up at 7am to hear the Aussie screaming for more coke.
I rolled out of the hammock and onto the deck, smacking my forehead into the wood. The sun was coming up, I was squinting, and, lying there, all I saw were empty plastic cups and beer cans strewn in a wake of destructive awesomeness everywhere I looked. Playing cards were scattered around. A few shirts, a hat, and a pair of shorts, all wet from the ocean, lay in piles on the deck. A man sat at one of the tables, head in his hands. I assumed he was asleep and not dead.
I rolled over again and sat up. My mouth tasted like a rat had died in it. I shielded my eyes from the sun with my hand. I wore a bathing suit top, underwear, and a wet shirt. Gonzales slept in another hammock. And all I heard was the Aussie. 
"I need more coke! Where are you goddamn drug dealers? I need coke. This is Central America. Where's the coke? Drug dealers, unite. Now!"
I followed her voice. She, Seanog, and a Brit named John sat in a circle on Aqua Lounge's deck. Nobody else was up. They chain-smoked cigarettes and sipped on alcohol, watching the sun come up in the hazy pink sky. Music played softly on a set of portable speakers. The Aussie's screaming drowned it out entirely. I walked over to them, sat down, then laid on my back. I looked at Seanog.
"How long's she been screaming?"
"Ah, the bloody cunt's been screaming for like sixteen fucking minutes now."
"Coke! A mountain of it! Will somebody be a good man and get me some goddamn coke?" she continued.
"We haven't even been out of coke that bloody long," John said, "It's probably not the best move screaming it out in bloody public."
"A mountain of it! Drug dealers! Now! I have money, I know someone can hear me."
After yelling for twenty-seven minutes, a dealer turned up with coke. He walked across Aqua Lounge's deck towards us. 
"There is a God!" the Aussie screamed while he was still ten feet away.
The Aussie, Seanog, and John were awake for the next forty-eight hours. Their speech capabilities got more incoherent and creative. At one point, seven of us sat at a table playing cards. The Aussie was in the circle, but she stared unblinking at the table, her eyes glossed over. Her make-up from three days before was smudged all over her face. She looked like the goth girl at my elementary school who painted black circles around her eyes. When I told the Aussie that she looked like hell and should go to bed, she pointed to her face, and said, "What, me? Standard!" 

July 4th, 2011 11:46am — Oh, the Sex!

While traveling, pious girls sleep around, and girls that have had sex a few times in their lives become raging whores. Men typically jump on anything that has a vagina, and intercourse is conducted everywhere. Usually backpackers sleep in dorm rooms, and it's not a fantastic experience to try to fall asleep hearing people having sex in five out of the eight twin-sized bunk beds. 
At Aqua Lounge, I met a lovely, fun bunch of girls, all of whom were traveling alone, with the exception of two Canadians. There were the two Canadians, an Austrian, a Brit, another Canadian, a Californian, and an Aussie. While the Aussie had attended college and I assume must have been capable of a more extensive vocabulary, eighty percent of the time she spoke one word: "Standard." 
When I presented Seanog to her, I did so by introducing his raging, infected ear.
"Dat pierced it a few nights ago with a needle. It took about fifteen minutes and four holes in his ear. The giant leprechaun on steroids filmed the event. Seanog cleaned it with Vodka and figured that the salt water is good for it, despite the fact that some guy's constantly pissing in it and there are beer cans floating around everywhere."
"Standard," she said, as she shook Seanog's hand.
Add a Kiwi and a couple of British guys into the mix, and we had ourselves an attractive, enchantingly incestuous group. Wonderful people, no sarcasm. It was like a traveling sex ring reality show on HBO. When my male friends had parties in high school, they'd play porn on the living room television. A nice sound and visual for the background, clearly. In a week in Bocas, I saw more penises and sex than I did throughout all of those high school parties combined. 
One night, a few people and I went out on the pier to catch a boat from Aqua Lounge across to La Iguana bar. I saw people having sex on the pier. I knew both of them. Another time, I got lost and ended up in some random-ass rancid Panamanian alley in Bocas Town. More people having sex, the girl with her back up against a brick wall. I knew them too. 
Fornication happened in the ocean, in other people's beds, up against trees, on buses... I saw a couple escorted out of a bar for almost having sex on the dance floor. I hadn't thought anything of it when I saw his penis flapping around. I lived in San Francisco for five years and thought this guy was putting on a show. I'd seen such things many times in downtown SF. My favorite naked man experience was watching seven men on small podiums on Market Street doing penis windmills. Turns out, this guy in Bocas was simply drunk. He wasn't trying to draw attention to himself, he was just trying to stab it into a chick. Even after he was thrown out of the bar, he still hadn't tucked the old schlong away. A few of the elderly walking past the bar were horrified, but I was just impressed with the guy's persistence. 

July 3rd, 2011 8:27am - Bocas and Ear Piercing

Coke is as rampant in Central America as Spanish speakers are at the Miami, Florida airport. A few years ago, on my way home from Lima, Peru, the swine flu broke out. I had no money because my wallet had been stolen in Nazca, and after three days of whoring myself out to the airlines for housing and food, I found myself on a plane to Florida. Never mind that I needed to get home to California, I was going back to the states. I exited the plane ecstatic to be in my country. I walked into the airport with a smile as large as a vagina during childbirth. Three minutes later, I cried. Everybody at MIA spoke Spanish. Those that did speak English did so with a Spanish accent. I wasn't home, and God was fucking with me.
Drug dealers were everywhere in Bocas del Toro. I was still with the giant leprechaun on steroids, Seanog, Dat, and Ed. The dealer that sold to Seanog our first night then disappeared. Luckily, there was no shortage, and in his place seventeen others approached the Irish guy. I thought Seanog must just look like he wanted Coke, but one of the dealers told me that they could tell he was wired.
"But I've traveled with him for weeks now, and he generally has crazy eyes. It's not that he's on drugs, he's just Irish," I tried to explain. In response, I received raised eyebrows.
Our third night in Bocas, Seanog ran into his dealer from a few nights before.
"Oy, ya cunt bag, where the fuck have you been?"
Seanog displayed wonderfully elevated diction in his everyday speaking tendencies.
"I got in jail," the man replied, looking depressed.
As I later learned, this was a common occurrence. Cops picked up the dealers and threw them in jail, the dealers paid them off the next day, and then reappeared on the streets to sell more drugs, make more money, and continue unsuccessful attempts to avoid the police.
Needless to say, it was the epitome of a backpacker destination. Located on the Caribbean, Bocas del Toro comprised a group of islands with tropical jungle and water taxis to different beaches and islands. Activities included but were not limited to: snorkeling, diving, surfing, partying, and recreational drug usage.
We stayed at a kick-ass hostel and bar called Aqua Lounge. For the extravagant fee of one balboa (aka one US dollar), a water taxi drove us from the mainland of Bocas del Toro to the Isla Carenero. To get from the mainland to the island took probably thirty seconds, maybe one minute. You couldn't really say that Aqua Lounge was necessarily on the island, because it was built entirely over the ocean. We had checked out the website, which boasted "over three hundred movies," "Bocas' only legit movie theater," "custom made professional" beer pong tables, and a trampoline over the water. The website hadn't been updated in about twenty years, because the movie selection had plummeted to about one hundred, of which thirty were scratched or unreadable. The movie theater was one dilapidated couch and an old-school television that I had to squint to see ten feet away. Granted, I'm almost legally blind, but still. The beer pong tables and trampoline were nonexistent. Rumors said this was because drunkards had thrown the tables in the ocean, and the trampoline had collapsed when fifteen backpackers thought it was a good decision to see how many could fit. There were allegedly some injuries. That being said, Aqua Lounge, as Seanog eloquently put it, "rocked my balls." There were hammocks, swings that you could fall off of and end in the water, large holes in the wooden deck that equated swimming pools, and a restaurant that produced good food, and, to my delight, amazing smoothies. Most importantly, Ladies Night was at least twice a week, and we could party and then walk ten feet to our beds. Ladies Night equaled free drinks for a few hours. Free drinks, coupled with the alcohol we continuously bought from Bocas Town, always made for staggeringly good days and nights.
One of our first nights in Bocas, Seanog may have been a wee bit under the influence of alcohol and/or other substances, and decided he wanted his ear pierced. Immediately. A party was in full swing on Aqua Lounge's deck and bar. Instead of trying to find a sober person among the hundred heavily intoxicated, we inspected each other. Dat was deemed the most capable (he was getting his diving certification and thus was slightly more sober than the rest of us). We were on Aqua Lounge's deck, and I ran back to the dorm room to get Dat a needle from a hotel sewing kit.
"I found it in the bottom of my bag, in between my tennis shoes and tampons. You might want to sterilize it or something first," I said as Dat took the needle, shrugged, and shoved it in the top of Seanog's right ear. I finished the sentence as Dat removed his hand to look at the needle still in the ear.
Seanog had been carrying around an earring he found, and gave it to Dat to put in his newly pierced ear. Piercing his ear should have been simple. But the earring he had was four times the width of the needle hole, and was supposed to loop around the top of the ear. Trying to jam the earring in the hole was like watching a black giant trying to have sex with a midget. It just wasn't going to work.
Ten minutes later, Dat had pierced another hole in Seanog's ear, Seanog downed Vodka to drown the pain, and the earring still wouldn't fit. Seanog opened his eyes and sighed.
"Kara, get me a bloody earring, will ya?" he asked.
"Sure. But all of mine have either been lost or stolen in the last month. They're all scattered around Panama."
"Oh for fuck's sake!" Seanog screamed and got up.
He returned twelve seconds later.
"Look, I got this dangly one off some chick. I just showed her my penis."
A few minutes later, and Seanog had a four-inch-long earring hanging from the top of his ear.
"Jesus, man, I don't even wear earrings that heavy. There's all kinds of shit on it weighing it down," I said, after feeling the earring.
"It's alright," Seanog said and poured Vodka all over his ear to clean it.
"It is NOT alright," he yelled and pointed to his bloody ear an hour later. "The fuckin thing is tearing my ear off. I can't even fuckin drink enough, I still feel this cunt of an earring." His finger shook as he pointed. He had crazy eyes.
With a pair of tweezers, I removed all of the heavy, dangly bits and left just the ear wire. When I came onto the deck the next morning, Seanog was climbing up the ladder from the ocean.
"I just jumped in, figured the salt water would keep me ear clean. I got stung by a fucking jellyfish," he shouted.

July 1st, 2011 5:38pm - San Blas=Drunken Paradise

Throughout our stay on Tony's Island, Jack Sparrow blasted music powered by his generator. I enjoy music as much as I do food. I was ecstatic that we didn't have to try and rig up some speakers with our supplies. Between us, we had a battery, a paperclip, and twelve bottles of rum. I delighted in the luxury of constant music. The other backpackers regarded the music with crushing devastation. For them, it was on the same disappointment level as their parents eating all of their Halloween candy.
Jack Sparrow only played his three favorite songs. On repeat. The first day, he played the same song thirteen times in a row.
"This song is a cunt bag! I can't take it anymore," Seanog yelled and skipped to the next song.
Jack Sparrow noticed and swerved towards us, a bottle of rum in one hand and the baby in the other. He started the song over and lectured us not to touch his music. For the next three days, we listened to the same three songs. It was a good run if we'd get three different songs in a row. That happened once.
Day one, Jack Sparrow stumbled around the island screaming obscenities, smoking joints, and wobbling between Israeli supermodel breasts and drunken backpackers. 
Day two, Jack Sparrow was awesome, and the leprechaun on steroids had burnt the shit out of his body. It looked like his giant leprechaun body had been dipped in red paint.
We awoke in our bamboo tents, washed off in the ocean, and congregated in the feeding area at 9am. Jack Sparrow immediately distributed beer, and we began playing drinking games. After three rounds of Fuck the Dealer, Jack Sparrow introduced us to his game. He piled a pack of cards on the top of a beer bottle. The first person held the beer, removed the top card, and passed the bottle to the next person in the circle without knocking off any cards. Whenever a card fell off, whoever had failed at life shotgunned a beer.

After a few rounds, drunken logic and invented rules prevailed. Blowing on the cards and smashing the table with fists were allowed. Chants were involved. A pink laundry clip was introduced. Whoever had the clip attached it to someone else, waited a few minutes, and then screamed, "where's the clip?!" Everyone frantically searched their backs, heads, and shoulders. You could only search yourself. If the clip wasn't located within six seconds, whoever lost chugged a beer.

Whenever someone was responsible for a card falling off, they shotgunned a beer and then everyone else agreed on another activity they had to do. Jack Sparrow climbed a palm tree, I pole danced, and one of the Canadians went under the table until we decided it was time for someone else to be the troll. 

Jack Sparrow told us that the baby's parents had died in the Kuna wars, and he adopted him. Jack Sparrow then erected a bottle of rum and chugged five sips.
That night, we sat in a circle in the sand, listened to the same three songs on repeat, and played drinking games. Drinking games are a more effective bonding method than being born siblings. As I sat on the sand, I realized how much I adore skinny dipping, especially in developing countries. As long as the locals aren't sitting on your clothes when you emerge out of the water, skinny-dipping is a sick-ass thing to do.
I walked around the island in six minutes. Israelis were everywhere, and I preferred not to display my tiny little breasts and naked body in front of the people I'd been traveling with for a week.
I stripped and dove into the water in the only spot without people sitting on the beach. I landed in coral. It was in my hands and stomach. I internally debated with the rum talking in my head. The rum won, and I swam out farther. I floated on my back away from the shore for five minutes before trying to step down. I smashed my foot in coral. Coral was everywhere. And I was naked. I floated on my back again to return to shore. When I crawled onto the sand, coral was in my arms, legs, feet, hands, stomach, and ass. A minuscule amount had imbedded itself in my face. Four days later, my ass still hurt.
One of the Canadians, we'll call him Crazy, went a little nuts on the rum. He dominated as the troll under the table, he guzzled rum like an alcoholic, he passed out on his bed with one foot on the floor, and he felt like death during the Jeep ride back to Panama City.