At Home In Casco Viejo
It wasn’t an international move. Rather, we were relocating simply from one end of Panama City to the other. Still, we’ve been through moves in developing world countries before. We prepared ourselves for the worst.
We’d engaged the moving company to come the day before to pack our household contents in their entirety, so, Wednesday morning, we walked out the door and headed for the office hoping for the best but, as I said, fully expecting some less optimal outcome.
Wednesday night, Lief returned home before I did. He called to report, “There’s not a fork, not a glass that’s not been wrapped and put into a carton. And every stick of furniture is covered with plastic. They left the mattresses unwrapped and the television and DVD player connected. We’ll need to go out for dinner. Then we can come back home and sit on the floor to watch a movie, I guess.”
Thursday morning, at the appointed hour, five young and energetic Panamanians, under the direction of a very on-the-ball lady manager, burst into the apartment and set about loading their moving truck with our stuff. Across town, in Casco Viejo, the crew navigated our narrow lane, parked their truck, then off-loaded it just as energetically and cheerfully as they’d filled it up several hours earlier.
Several pieces couldn’t be fit up the winding first-floor staircase. Our guys didn’t skip a beat. They carried the guest room bed, the leather couch, and the antique armoire back out on to the street. Then, one by one, they hoisted each piece of furniture by rope from the sidewalk up over the first-floor balcony. Nine-year-old Jackson watched with delight.
Just as the skies opened and the rain came pouring down, the last cardboard box was carried inside. By now, it was dark. Our guys had been hauling and toting since 8:30 a.m., but, again, cheerfully, with no encouragement, they began unwrapping the plastic from around all the furniture, then standing by for instructions from me as to where to place each piece in each room.
It was nearly 9 p.m. when they finished. We’ve spent the couple of days since unpacking boxes (which the movers will return tomorrow morning to collect) and getting to know our new neighborhood.
Living next-door is an American from Arizona who’s been in Casco Viejo for a year and who is preparing for the opening of his new microbrewery just around the corner. Two blocks away is a friendly, family-run restaurant that offers an Executive Lunch including salad, homemade bread, ceviche, an entrée of chicken, pork, or fish, and dessert for US$8.50.
On the corner of our street is the 16th-century La Merced church, where, this morning, the faithful gathered at 7, 9, and again at 11 to sing and celebrate. Two blocks away is the main Casco Viejo square, Plaza Cathedral, with another beautiful old church and a couple of museums, including the Panama Canal Museum.
On our small street, every building but one has been carefully restored. The one remaining renovation project is well under way. I watched the workmen exposing the interior stone and brick walls of the four-story structure from our balcony yesterday morning.
Behind us, new apartments and a swimming pool are being erected.
And all around, the good people of Casco Viejo are enjoying life in this World Heritage Site enclave with its brick-paved streets, centuries-old French- and Spanish-colonial structures, plazas, squares, and gardens. We couldn’t be happier to join them.