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Casco Viejo

Jose, our friend and the guy who rented our apartment to us, is a Spanish teacher here in Panama. He comes over a couple times a week and hangs out with us. It's business and pleasure - we learn Spanish from him and we teach him about online business. He's a lot more of an expert in his field than we are in ours.

Last week he told us about a couple he teaches here. The guy, Peep (pronounced 'Pep') is from Estonia, and the girl, Sarah, is from Austin! We called them up and planned to hang out one night.

They live in Casco Viejo - "The Old City". Todd and I kept intending to go visit Casco Viejo, but never got around to it. Unless there's a moderate amount of pressure, you can't ply us from our work.



Just like any other late summer’s afternoon on Ruapuke beach, the sun was smiling big long golden sighs out across the black sand. The ocean playfully rolled out, stretching in the lowering light, almost touching our toes; three pairs and four paws scattering south. Seaweed and shells dot and sprinkle the beach, swept by feathers and dancing grasses. [1]Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We almost missed it. A rope lay limp on the shore, a reddish rust coloured rope, one end buried in the sand, the other curled like a snake. Thinking not much of it I continued to walk, skimming my soles on sandy skin. Boh first begins tugging on the rope, and when he starts to shout that he can’t move it, Van starts digging. When Strachan can’t free the hidden end he calls to me and I see the three of them struggling, building curiosity. I wandered back over to help. Now, you might think that after this rough attempt we’d assume that the rope was attached to something bigger underneath the sand that we couldn’t free by pulling, something that’d require a great deal more effort excavating and so we would try 2 minutes more, lose interest and continue meandering along the beach; in which case you’d be right. Well, partly right. We did assume the rope to lead to something bigger and we did try for two minutes longer then meander further along the beach… But we didn’t lose interest. [2]

What was strange about the rope was that it wasn’t there before. For something so big to be buried so deep in the sand naturally, you’d imagine it’d been there for a while. We had, earlier that very day returned from a Wellington trip, so there was a small chance in those 8 days that something had washed up onto the beach and slowly become buried by sand. Bouncing these thoughts back and forth up and down the beach, we approached the rope on the return leg to the car. It bathe innocently in the closing rays, dead still.We were about to walk away. If it had been a fraction of a second later, we’d have wrapped up the mystery with a conclusion that it was probably a buoy, nothing that exciting, closed our mental case files and archived them deep in the memory section labelled ”forgotten”. But all of a sudden it began to shiver. It shook and quivered and lifted it’s knotty neck up to the sky. All four of us stood stunned, wide eyed like possums in headlights.

Eyes scanning the beach in disbelief, seeking out other humans with whom to share this bizarre occurrence, gradually, with the hesitant suspicion of a child about to try an olive for the first time, we shuffled closer to look into the scrappy wet hole. Around the base of the rope the water was still and glassy. Strachan reached out and touched it, and from the exact point that he did, the rope began to change, deep green embellishment growing, winding and swirling like a vine down to the earth and up to the sky. It became rigid and began fattening into what looked like a carved trunk, pushing away the water, which looked silver in its shadow. We were all stepping back, looking up in absolute amazement, at what appeared to be a giant tree, wound delicately with intricate foreign looking flowers, thick with deep green leaves. At the base sat the only other colour; a rusted orange daisy as big as a foot. Once it seemed to have finished growing, without a word to one another, we all stepped to the vibrant ring of petals, and knelt down, noses drawn in. It had the most fruity fragrance, tropical and sweet, with a hint of cinnamon. Inhaling deeply the clouds, once white and fluffy and far up above, began sailing over the ocean and falling towards the horizon. Like melting marshmallows, they dripped out of the sky. Then Boh pointed at the far end of the beach. “Look!” Sand started swirling, sliding over itself and piling up against the rocks. I suddenly thought, “this can’t be real, I must be dreaming”. But it wasn’t a dream. This was the entrance to a vertical forest.

The world rotated was much cooler, the sun hidden underfoot somewhere. Finding ourselves in a woody clearing we rose from our knees and saw the flower hanging up above like a warm star. Etched into a water-smoothed stone, about the size of a new ford fiesta, were several messages to new arrivals;

.1. One must not use verbal communication above the decibel of a whisper.

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