We've been in Panama for two days now, but it seems like weeks. There's obviously still TONS to explore around the city, but I'm already comfortable here and it even feels a bit familiar.
First of all, I love it. For me it has the ideal balance between chaos and structure. It's very safe... people are at least as friendly as they are in the US, if not moreso. They go out of their way to help us and put up with our mediocre Spanish. Our hotel right now isn't in a great area (though not a bad one either), and I feel totally safe walking a few blocks to go to a diner.
Even though it's safe, there don't seem to be a lot of minor enforced rules. Taxi drivers ignore speed limits and stop signs. The drinking and gambling age is 18, but I've heard even that's not enforced. You don't get the feeling that you're being overprotected or treated like a child.
The food has been MUCH better than expected. There are several vegetarian cafeterias that we've found already which are incredibly good and cheap. The one we visited tonight was owned by a very friendly Chinese couple (have you ever heard Chinese people speak Spanish?). There were maybe forty different dishes they had, and a serving of any one was only fifty cents. I asked for orange juice without sugar (most fruit drinks here have sugar) and they fresh squeezed it for me for only $1!
Grab your spangly feather boa and your rainbow flag; it's pride season!
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Many places around the world have already celebrated pride this year, with many events taking place in the UK over the next month. Belfast Pride takes place this weekend and for the first time in a couple of years I'll be attending. There is an almost carnival atmosphere with some great events lined up every year and it never fails to disappoint on an entertainment level, but pride never fails to cleft me in twain; and here is why.
I have a major issue with the name of the event: Pride. Remember when you were younger, and you'd mention a recent achievement and that one sarcastic person would retort, 'What do you want? A parade?' This is very much how I feel about pride events. What do we have to be proud of? I'm not proud of the fact I'm gay, but that doesn't mean I'm ashamed. What it means is that I don't consider my sexual orientation to be a defining feature of my personality. It almost feels like we're flaunting our innate homosexuality at everyone else going, 'Hey, hey you! See me? See all these colors? I'm different from you. My people are so special we need an annual parade!' To me that isn't pride, that's arrogance. We should be remembering the years of hardship people had to endure to allow us the freedoms and rights we have now. We should be continuing our fight for the rights we don't yet have. We should not be ogling at semi-naked men dressed as angels and disco balls atop ridiculous floats and treating the day like a mini-festival. When it comes down to a basic level, we are no different than anyone else, so please stop pretending we are.
If the suffragettes marched today, do you think they would do so out of vanity? or the promise of some mediocre Gaga tribute at the end? Of course not. They marched to make change, it seems pride parades these days march to get laid, or at least drunk. I'm not saying do away with pride. I'm saying lets refocus and actually use it to get our voice heard further, to bring about change. If we're gonna be proud about something, why can it not be something actually worth being proud about?