An evening’s distraction

May 15, 2011

On Tuesday night, our first real night here, we all went out on the Chiva Parrandera. We’d been told about this Chiva by numerous people, all of whom said it was pretty amazing, but I still wasn’t really sure what to expect. At 7:00 pm when I looked down from our fifth floor balcony to the street in front of the hotel, the I was confronted with it: a painted bus covered in racing neon lights. Now, I’ve been in limos with crazy lights on the inside ceiling and all that, but never have I seen a bus that looked like one of those bizarre deep sea fish; just like the ones on the t-shirt I had when I was six, a big, bioluminescent land-fish. And who can resist the enticing lighted lure of the angler? None of us. We all piled onto this bus donning Chiva Parrandera t-shirts and mylar masks, pressing ourselves like thirty sweaty sardines into this tin can (I’m on a roll with the fish metaphors right now).

All of the seats had been replaced with narrow metal benches running along either side of the bus, and a DJ booth had been set up in the back. We started moving. As we pulled away from the curb the music started blaring and the hot, sticky dance party began. We toured the city, stopping for a bit in a large parking lot (for those of you who have never had a parking lot dance party, try it), and then made our way back to the hotel. The whole thing lasted about three hours, and I pride myself on the fact that I never stopped dancing the entire trip… stone cold sober.

Obviously the idea of a mobile dance club is a strange one for us to begin with. This is not something you see roaming around the States. I really think we should though. It’s a great concept. It was interesting watching the reactions of passing traffic also. In Louisville, when the Pool Party Express (a horribly deceptive party bus) drives down Bardstown Road people react, whether out of amusement or with disapproval. The passersby here were remarkably unfazed. They didn’t even seem to really notice the busload of raucous youth in the lane next to them. Later in the evening we got a little more reaction from people in other cars laughing and honking (of course) but that was about it.

The other thing of note was the dancing ability of the few panameños that were with us. Now, of course it’s expected that latin americans dance better than those of us from the States, but the combination of standard club dancing and things like the Pasa Pasa or the popularity of the Electric Slide, yes the Electric Slide, were interesting. I’m interested to see what the dance floors at the clubs look like (plus I’m ready for a little participant observation). The standard schedule for going out is not one I’m cut out for though. Much like Europe, no one goes out until 10:00 or 11:00 at the earliest really, and then they stay out until the wee hours of the morning. I’ve met those hours a couple of times and we are not good friends. The lack of siesta really makes that schedule untenable as far as I’m concerned. The Spanish know what they’re doing on that score.

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