Taxis: Wow, taxis here can be and are, any make/model/year of car. A taxi is marked with a registration number on its side and (most of the time but not always) a taxi sign on top. They can be brand new or an utter clunker complete with bad sounds, rust and flapping fabric. You never know what you are going to get until they actually stop - but you don't have to get in if you don't want to.
There are no meters in the taxis here, just a flat rate or an agreement depending on where you are. Peace Corps tells us to talk to the driver about where and how much before getting in. Taxis will also stop and pick up more passengers as they go along, so if you are alone you tell them that you want the taxi to not pick up anyone else before you get in (safer that way). For the most part taxis here have been a safe and easy way to travel...but more expensive. A taxi might be $1.50 for a ride where a bus would be $.25 a person. You just have to weigh all the options and pros/cons and do what is best at the moment.
Fashion: Well, I should start by saying I am not an expert on this, and I do not have good fashion sense in the States...but I have noticed a few differences here worth telling you about.
First, women here seem to love clothes that sparkel. Beads, bangles, sequins, glitter, enbroidery are all a part of normal everyday fashion for women here. I don't know that that will be as true on the island, but I have seen examples pretty far out into the countryside. I would think that it would make the clothing harder to wash, and in many places the wash is done by hand. They do look nice, but most of you know that I am not a very sparkly girl.
Second, shoes are important when trying to look nice. Shoes may or may not be practical in nature. They definitely have and use work shoes, but would not wear them to a public event. Many kids and sometimes adults go barefoot a good deal, but when appearance matters the shoes should be nice, and they should be clean. Our host in Santa Clara during training would on occasion remove our shoes from our room and wash them. I was starting to worry about mold on my boots and had to ask her to not wash them because I was having a hard time drying them.
Third, Sizes are different. I haven't been shopping for clothes here yet, but when I do go it should be an adventure. I am considerably taller than most Panamanians - male or female. (To be totally accurate there are some men Kevin's size, but they are not overly common.) Anyway, I think that I will just say that my definition of "what fits" me is probably a bit different than the culture here. Sizes here tend to run smaller (other volunteers tell me) both because the people are smaller in stature, and because clothing is often worn snugger.
Mold: Hum, where to start. We have had some fun with mold here. This can be a fairly wet and humid climate. It is not hot or humid all of the time, but when it is cool things don't dry. They best way to dry things is out in the sun on a clear day. I have some money that I have been saving....yup it grew mold. Turns out that moldy money is kind of soft and powdery feeling. Somehow I can't see myself putting it all out in the sun for a day to kill the mold, so I am stuck with it. I think that the active mold growth has stopped, but I am still thinking about turning it in to a bank just to be free of moldy money.
My black birkenstock leather sandles have been rescued from mold growth twice. They grew mold (a pretty gray mold) on the surface of the leather and on the leather top to the birk footbed inside. Yum. Another Volunteer (or PCV in PC lingo) lent me some waterproofing wax that should stop the mold - I hope that he is right. Before we left hiking boots on the island we put them out in the sun to get good and hot for a day. They are also stored near the roof in the house that they are at - supposed to be warmer there.
The final mold indignity came the other day when we opened up the computer to use it for the first time in a couple of weeks; there was a fine smattering of mold on the wrist rests and screen. Kevin cleaned it off, but who knew that a computer could grow mold. We are now on the look out for those re-usable de-humidifying packets. If you know how to get them please email me! In the mean time, we may go shoe shopping and steal some silica packets.
I am just going to let this one speak for itself. Enjoy.
These are elevator doors and interior in a mojor mall in Panama City. I thought that they were pretty funny. In case you can't read it they do talk about Parental Controls.