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  • Lemonade and other sides of pura vida

      ·  Vladimir Kumov —

    Barbara and Francisco, a beautiful couple from Brazil who moved to Panamá City about three years ago, hosted me for more than one month. During my stay in Panamá City when I had to solve some problems caused by my companion’s leaving, Barbara and Francisco said to me one powerful and encouraging phrase that is very common in Brazil: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

    "Vova’s t-shirt.

    When my companion left the project I felt like “I’ve lost everything!” Well, life gave me that lemon but luckily also the opportunities and people I needed to overcome these difficulties and successfully continue the project. Nevertheless, it was too soon to taste lemonade because there were still some problems to solve.

    I’ve posted the request and questionnaire on vk.com, the largest social network in Russia. 53 people from 14 different cities within Russia filled the blank. But there were a lot of those who couldn’t come within two weeks, those who couldn’t pay for their own flight to Panamá. Well, to be honest I was interested more in overall motivation and basic knowledge of foreign language and so-called cycling history rather then if he could pay for the fight, but nevertheless. I had first to compose a short-list of those who could fit for purpose and only then after a short conversation with each candidate to chose someone. Well, I chosen two guys so then we had to deal with some technical matters as visas and flight booking.

    After making sort of instruction for the guys I had written to a good friend of mine Sirotkina Masha who’d been hibernating in Costa-Rica asking for a meeting. I thought then that the best place for such meeting is the Bocas del Toro islands, near the Costa-Rican border.

    Decision was sudden:

    — Do you have local mobile number?
    – No. Let’s just make an appointment at some exact time.
    – Deal! A bit old-fashioned way, though. Like the times when nobody had mobile phones.

    Central park where we met.

    Google-Maps was a helpful tool in order to find the best place for our meeting – a central park of a small town where you can take a boat to the islands. Next evening I was heading to the other side of Panamá on a bus and Masha from her side had to take three buses and cross the border.

    Escape to Costa-Rica

    In each human’s life there are certain people who inspire. Masha has been my inspiration for 6 last years. We first met on an anniversary party of the student’s magazine “Zachetka” I had been editor of. She was editing the site of one of Moscow’s major universities then. Well, actually the story is not about press or parties that we’d made a bunch of. She is 24 now and she is very successful businesswoman. She speak five languages, travel around the World to meet partners or just to escape from her daily routine. She is es lo maximo how would people say here, in America Latina.

    — Kumov, by the way, do you have American visa? – She asked my while we’d been waiting for the boat. – What if we go to Costa-Rica right now?

    In fact I had and the offer was interesting, but I didn’t have an outgoing fight ticket that is required in order to get back to Panamá.
    — Well, we’ll manage it somehow, — I replied.

    But we went to island anyway, thinking that we could have a lunch there. Costa-Rican border closes at 6 p.m. so we had plenty of time.

    There is cycle parking equipment is almost near each building.

    On the border

    We’d taken two buses to get to the border that cost us 4 bucks but it was great fun! :)

    Panamanian kids are waving their hands as we’re passing by.

    Weather here changes suddenly so when we got to the border it’s was raining heavily so we had nothing to do than to look for the cover. We found it under roof of the building where we had to stamp our passports.

    It was senseless to wait until it would stop raining, as we could be late to cross the border. Wrapped our documents and electronics with Berghaus’ jacket we moved across the bridge. It was impossible to run (photographs are below).

    Pura Vida

    Pura vida is Costa-Rican expression that could be translated as “Pure Life” and could be used in various cases, for example:

    — Hey! How’s it going? – Pura vida!

    This one is Masha’s ex-bike which she bought for 40$ and sold for 60$.
    Corroded chain? Noisy saddle? At least it rides! Pura vida!

    — Bye!
    — Pura vida!

    Bare feet, bike and a surf board... Pura vida!

    — Are you going to the party tonight?
    — Pura vida!

    — Do you know Masha?
    — Sure! She is very pura vida!

    In other words, life is beautiful! You’ll get it even after two-day stay in Costa-Rica.

    Costa-Rica is a country-sized national park with unique relations between humankind and nature.

    Even money here is beautiful.

    On the third day we remembered that it’s Maslenitsa in Russia so we decided to make pancakes as we would if we were in Russia.

    — Are we going to eat with our hands? – exclaimed Ricardo, Masha’s boyfriend.
    — Sure! Pura vida!

    On the fourth day early in the morning Masha and Ricardo had to leave to Pacific shore and I left back to Panamá. I planned to spend two more days on Bocas del Toro islands, but first I needed to cross that wonderful old bright on the border.

    The bridge between Costa-Rica and Panamá.

    Welsome to Panamá.

    Travellers’ stickers.

    Caribbean treasure

    Bicycle in Bocas del Toro is the most affordable and comfortable transpot.

    A bucket for children.

    I’d rented Banana bike as they call cruisers there for 4$ and went for a trip around the island. I wished to find some red frogs but found only giant ants and gorgeous beach with yellow sand, big waves and almost no one around.

    I got to my village in the evening.

    Children are curious about a stranger on a bike.

    Elder ones are fascinated too.

    Let girls do your job. :)

    I got back to Panamá City on Monday, March 18 and my new crew had to arrive next morning. Those weren’t all the surprises I had by that time. I’d written a message to a friend of mine Ulises, opera singer who lives in Panamá City, with a proposal for meeting. Funny, but that message went straight to “Others” folder in facebook.com and he was able to receive it only after his friend told him about that folder. That happened some minutes after I made a decision to stay at Panamá City for just one more night.

    Opera in Panamá

    I met Ulises on instagram.com when we were in Guatemala with my former companion and the opportunity of meeting him live was a lucky chance. Opera in my view was something from parallel universe. Even when we had a conversation I couldn’t believe that he sings until I asked him to sing a random song we’d heard on the street. My world had flipped upside down since then.

    Firework in front of our windows.

    Next morning we left the city for Portobelo where we had to find a sailboat to Colombia. We had found it pretty fast and we had three days to departure.

    I used that time to get back to Panamá City, because Ulises invited me to a TV show entitled Canta Conmigo where he taught singing. Well, for that moment I had been thinking that we had to leave Portobelo on the Wednesday morning and I’d almost refuse to come but then I finally decided to go. Morover I had to buy some things we were not able to find in Portobelo.

    Distance from Panamá City to Portobelo is approximately 108 km. The distance we had passed two days before on the bikes in 12 hours I passed in 3.5 hours on the bus. It was warm and a bit uncomfortable, though. There was a guy who’d been telling religious stories to passengers for the whole route and selling something.

    I’d been met on a bus station and we at once moved in the church where Fernando and Ulises had got to sing that night. It was a bad place either for classical music or opera. Bad acoustic, bad lighting conditions, noise of the conditioners and noise of the street that was coming inside through opened doors. Though, everybody looked happy to be there and I was wondering why I’d never been to such even in Moscow.

    Two days that I’d been back to Panamá I spent on rushing between various show rehearsals and concerts and stores. I was trying to find bicycle spokes for my rear wheel but couldn’t find any of the required size. Pity.

    32nd floor. She is from Spain. He is from Panamá. Rehearsal. Opera.

    I met a lot of beautiful people during those two days. It’s impossible to tell everything here. There are things in life that are impossible to describe.

    I was asked to tell show participants about my project and my journey. I had a lot of interesting questions then.

    Immidiately after the show Ulises and Fernando gave me a ride to Portobelo singing the whole time until we got there.

    Accidents are not accidental. Live and let live. Pura vida!

    Translated by Michael Ratkewitz

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