The Grand Hotel (actually just a Country Inn)

I have just finished reading Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.  It is like candy for the book-obsessed.  I want to read it again immediately. There are so many great quotes but the one that inspired this blog belongs to Ezra Pound, a famous writer friend of Hemingway’s while having one of those picturesque café conversations Hemingway was known to enjoy. “We need more true mystery in our lives, Hem.”

So it struck me that mystery abounds when you are living at a hotel.  No wonder so many stories and books have been written regarding life at a hotel.  We have been here for approximately two months and have observed much drama and many stories taking place right under our nose.

There was the large group of French filmmakers who took up most of the second floor.  They seemed very secretive and unfriendly.  As we discovered about three weeks in, they were filming the French version of Survivor on Contadora Island and using the hotel  for a base.  One night we noticed a buffet being laid out by the pool.  Surrounding it were a group of incredibly scruffy and dirty people of all ages that were clearly “voted off” the island.  Also, they asked for a portable scale,  each weighing themselves to determine how much weight they lost.  They packed up and left shortly after but provided much entertainment and speculation on our part.

Usually though, we enjoy making up our own stories to go along with the people we see.

There was an Asian man who always wore earplugs at breakfast.  Each day he was dressed in camo pants and a muscle shirt.  His signature move was getting a glass of milk and dumping a container of yogurt into it.  Then stirring, stirring and stirring some more in a ritualistic fashion.  He repeated the same thing every morning.  He was always alone, never smiled and never made eye contact. He was at the hotel almost as long as we had been.  Was he working as a logistic expert for some canal related enterprise?  Perhaps he was a spy or a secret agent?  Maybe he was a tug boat captain or container coordinator.  See what I mean about mysteries?

There are groups of tourists from the US, Germany, South America, etc.  Typically, the US and German tourists will be wearing some sort of khaki exploring outfit complete with safari hats and break-away pants. They are usually very stoic, academic types, clearly going for the “nuts and bolts” tours of the canal zone.   The South American and Panamanian tourists are almost always dressed for a party and are loud and animated but in a good fun way.

Sometimes a stray tourist will wander into the hotel sweating and disheveled seemingly overwhelmed.  Obviously, they were thinking this was a tourist destination where all of their needs would be met and shocked when it turned out Panama was an actual working country with people going about their everyday business the same as in their own country. Panama is a formidable player on the world stage AND a great tourist destination.  You just have to do your homework.

Practically the whole month of November is a fiesta of some sort or another.  The 3rd is Independence day, the 4th is Flag Day, the 5th is Colon Day, the 10th is Shout in Villa de los Santos, the 28th is Independence from Spain.  .  So during these times, the Panamanians will dress in colorful local outfits. there are many parades and parties.  Also, at these times, the hotel is usually filled with people enjoying a short stay with their families relaxing and splashing in the pool.


Also, we have the footballers (soccer players) who stay at the hotel.  There are two stadiums near us and we see many players of all ages who play in the Chorrea league.  They are usually excited and loud but not obnoxious.  As a bonus, we often have a fireworks display to watch on our balcony because the stadium is very close.

Of course there is always intrigue within the ranks of the employees.  We just see snippets of this but it is usually quite entertaining.  I am sure there is all manner of romance, intrigue and mystery in the employees world.  They are really loosening up around us and we are having such fun getting to know them.

Last night, Sam went to the lobby for something and one of our friends at the desk stopped him and said that her co-worker was convinced that he was a Hollywood actor. She was serious.  Sam has been mistaken for Art Garfunkle and Richard Simmons in the past and actually signed an autograph for an Art Garfunkle “fan” who wouldn’t give up when he insisted she was mistaken.  So we will play along a bit and keep them guessing.    It was then it occurred to me that we were just as big of a mystery to them as they were to us.

The great part about living at the hotel is that there is an ever-changing cast of characters providing more opportunities for mystery and intrigue, imaginary or otherwise.  If you don’t like this cast of characters, a new one will emerge next week.







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