My Lively Casita
Come, take a walk with me. See how life is in mi new casita.
My alarm is set for 6:45am. It’s way too ambitious. The previous night I had stayed at a BBQ until late. It was a little too much for a Sunday…. I hit the snooze button.
Now, it must be after 8am. I’m guessing by gauging the rising temperature in my bedroom. I have large ocean view windows that fill the room with light. It’s like a greenhouse.
Slightly hungover and severely dehydrated, I scour for something to drink. However, my fridge strictly has the spoils from the previous night: an assortment of beers, wine, Cheetos, a tasty guacamole dip, and enough BBQ chicken to feed a family of four for a week. Warm tap water from semi-rusty pipes will not quench my thirst tampoco (either).
To compound matters, I have no money. So, that leaves me with el chinito as the only option. They give me credit.
I recycle a kinda clean pair of gym shorts and cotton tee shirt off the floor. My hair is outrageous. My face feels slightly swollen. And, I’m definitely not in the mood to talk with anyone. Getting Gatorade is the mission. No need to impress.
I step out of my apartment. Immediately, there are seriously dressed adults in the nearby open-air stairwell. Their movements have purpose. It is 8am, but the building is already bustling with life.
“Buenos dias. Como estas?” I half-heartily say to a lady in the hallway.
“HOLA! Buenos dias, senor! Como esta usted?”.
“Bien.”….. I really should to start using the “usted” verb tense more often, I think to myself.
I’m the only resident that actually lives in Santa Familia. It is not a residential building. The space is occupied by various businesses and non-profit organizations. These tenants have creatively transformed a crumbling, uninhabitable, oceanfront, former school into workable space. The rugged concrete walls have murals and spray painted images on them. In the open-air internal courtyard, there is a nursery. The place feels like a small village.
At the bottom of the stairs I see the Cross Fit gym. I fill with self-disgust. God, I need to stop drinking.
I continue on my path. To my right there is the Calicanto’s women’s job training program. I see an elegant woman (I think the manager at Las Clementians) addressing a group of 30 attentively listening students. I duck down. I don’t want my just-got-out-of-bed appearance to be a distraction.
Within in a few steps, I pass by the another office. Nicole is working. We exchange “buenos dias”. I’ve known her for a month, but she just started making eye contact about a week ago. I kinda got a crush on her.
I near the steel door entrance. On the steps are 3 neighborhood children dressed in formal school outfits. I don’t really want to talk. But, they engage me by pulling on my arms. They thank me for the chicken last night and pass me la pelota (the ball) a couple times. It’s difficult to be irritable around smiling children.
The painter Mario is working up ahead. He’s already in a mid-day sweat.
“Oye, Mario, what time do you wake up?”.
“Chuso! Como a las 4am, papa!” (Hot dang! Like 4am, brother!”)
“Wow. Mario. You truly are a man. I, surely, am not.”.
Within my first 500 steps, I’m surrounded by people attacking their Mondays. You have early birds hitting the gym hard. Low income women who are enthusiastically participating in a personal and job development program. Young children formally dressed and ready for school. And, Mario, who takes a 2 hour bus ride every morning. He’s swinging the hammer by 6am. Talk about motivation!
Feeling inspired, I detour to my office. It’s just around the corner. I ring the doorbell. My co-worker (and organizational life coach) Olga answers the door. She looks me up and down – “Por Dios, Evan!” (For God’s Sake, Evan!) is what she is thinking. No words are communicated. She inherently knows from my rough appearance not to expect anything meaningful from me until the afternoon.
Maybe I should stick with the original plan – Gatorade from el chinito.
I order a red Gatorade and two bananas over the head of two children. They are deciding between different kinds of candies. “Chen, put this on mi cuenta, por favor.”. I’ll be by when I recovered to settle my tab ($1.20).
The Gatorade is gone within my two minute walk back to Santa Familia. I bypass my apartment and head to the impressive rooftop. The sun is not yet hot. The breeze is just right. The views are spectacular.
I want to take a brief moment before I dive into my day: In less than 40 days, I’ll be 27 years old. My Cuban squatter style apartment can be spooky. But, I love it! It is unique, has an ocean view, and is filled with life! I’m just glad that I don’t live in some sterile high rise apartment in downtown Panama City – people who focus on their blackberries while in the elevator. Worst yet, a cookie-cutter 100 single family home complex that is limited to 3 different floor plans back in Seattle – people who park their cars in a two car garage and head directly towards the master bedroom.
For me, I need life. And, Santa Familia has plenty of it.
P.S. If you are going to ask me how I got such a rad apartment – don’t. It’s difficult to explain. Casco just rewards good karma. If you are a positive contributing member and have longevity in the community, Casco finds a way to reward you. Sometimes in the form of unique apartments. I have no other way to explain it.