(Hannah’s Note: We are on a boat. This post is pre-written. Back on the 22nd or so.)

On the streets of San Jose, in our second week of travel, Ellen and I saw some graffiti that made us pause. Translated to English, it said “Imagine San Jose without bars.” We pictured, in our innocence, the city without drinking establishments. Moments later, of course, we understood what it really meant.

So far, in every town in Costa Rica and Panama, we’ve seen bars on the windows of every house. (Villages in the countryside tend not to have them, but there are exceptions.) Every yard is enclosed with ten-foot-tall fences topped with razor wire. Not just downtown, but every area is like this. Richer neighbourhoods have guards as well as gates and wires.

Wouldn't it be nice if the gates were never closed?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the gates were never closed?

Here at the hostel in Panama City, we were handed a map upon check-in, with a “red zone” clearly marked – places unsafe for travellers. As a Vancouverite, I can imagine my city without bars. I hope I live to see San Jose and other Latin American cities without bars as well.