The College of Saint Rose and UDELAS in Panama

A partnership about education, culture and the exchange of ideas

Tiempo Libre in Panama

-Lauren Kalbfell

The last blog entry of my trip will explore what Panamanians do in their free time, tiempo libre. At our time here at UDELAS, we were put in placements that were associated with our fields of study, so I was placed observing sessions in the speech pathology/audiology clinic. We were in those placements daily from 7:30am (had to be on the road by 6 to accommodate all the traffic- and for anyone who knows me, they know that I thought waking up at 5:00am was foul) until 12:00pm. We ate lunch on our own and had tiempo libre the rest of the evening most days. So we found out a thing or two about tiempo libre in our time in Panama.

In Panama City, the workday usually goes till 5 or later. Dinner is usually eaten around 8 or 9, when we first arrived in the country we kept thinking it was strange that all the restaurants were desolate around “dinner time” (at 6 or 7). On weekdays, that does not leave much time for free time at night. Perhaps that would be why it is rare to see someone in casual clothes during the weekdays, especially in the ritzy part of the city where our hostel was.  In most workplaces, dress was more casual on Fridays.

Gelato frequently eaten for dessert!

Every day of the week, the malls are a very popular place to go in the city. They call them “malls”, same in English, and there are three within the city. They are actually grouped according to price range- there is a mall of cheaper stores and different malls with higher-end stores and name brands. Cheap here is CHEAP so the deals were pretty nice. At any rate, the malls are tremendous and are a bit more of a social experience than the malls in the States. There are extensive food courts (sometimes multiple food courts) that include sit-down restaurants and all of the fast food places you might expect in an American mall (KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, etc.) In the center of the food court of the larger mall, Albrook, there are teacups and other rides for children. There are movie theaters, clothing stores, touristy shops, tobacco stores, and a huge variation of types of stores. A regular movie here costs $4.25 at the high-end mall, $7.45 for 3D IMAX. BELIEVE IT OR NOT. I don’t actually remember seeing an independent movie theater outside of a mall in Panama City. At any rate, these malls are frequented by Panamanians of all ages.

Albrook, one of the bigger malls in Panama City

There is also a thriving nightlife in Panama City. There are sections of the city well known for thriving nightclubs, called discotecas, such as Calle Uruguay and La Zona Viva. Many of these nightclubs cater to a range of ages, the strictly enforced drinking age in Panama is 18-years-old. But there were people of all ages at the few clubs we went out to. Actually, the first night we went out there was a very popular local rapper performing at the club. He had a group of back-up dancers that were doing moves straight out of America’s Best Dance Crew, it was neat. The rappers name was Japanese, but he wasn’t Japanese, I think he was Cuban. I was impressed because I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but evidently he is very vulgar and crude. But he’s very popular here among young adults.

I interviewed a girl in the clinic, Leyda, about what my same-age peers might do during their free time. She told me that she doesn’t feel that she gets a lot of free time because of her studies. She described that speech therapy was a demanding major and she spends a lot of her time doing work. She said that she also likes to walk, jog, and exercise along the coast here and go to the mall and the movies, in a certain cinema close by she told me that movies cost only $2 on Wednesdays (wish I had known that earlier!). She explained that she had a boyfriend who is a marine and as such is traveling a lot. She doesn’t like to go out and dance because she told me “boys are dogs”! Her free time sounded a lot like a college student in the United States. She described that there were sports teams and extracurricular stuff occurring through UDELAS that she could join if she wanted, but she hasn’t been interested.  Her friends are part of the clubs, and just like in the United States, some of them were big readers, some of them surfed or loved to swim in the ocean, for each person it was different.  She described that there are parks around town, which are usually more common for younger kids, but she goes to them from time to time to get some exercise.

A park within walking distance of our hostel

Tiempo libre in Panama has different nuances, but generally seems to be spent in a similar way to what we are used to in the United States. This marks the end of our trip. En total, it was the experience of a lifetime. I  can’t believe all that I’ve learned, saw, experienced, and been able to be a part of. I feel so grateful for having had the opportunity to do this and I can’t believe all that I’m walking away with. Thank you, St. Rose, Panama, UDELAS, and all the caring people that made the trip as excellent as it was. You will never be forgotten!

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