Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Hats off to Panama!

This time I’ve heeded one of the adages of a good friend of ours, Dwayne Majcher. Aim low – avoid disappointment. I had been in Idaho for a few days when Roger sent an email saying, “Come down to Panama for a visit and we’ll see what happens”.

As we all know, in the last couple of years I’ve traveled all over the globe to meet Roger with the hopes of staying in one place for a while. Even though we’ve had some amazing experiences, stability hasn’t been one of them. So, this time I just went with the thought it would be great to see Roger and if it was just a week’s holiday, that would be fine and if it worked out I could stay, that would be even better. Packing was another story as I wasn’t sure if we would be in Panama City or the jungle, in a hotel or a camp, or if I’d be away for one week or eight! What’s a girl to do??

Three days after Roger's email, I was navigating my way through Calgary, Houston and Panama City airports which were using various levels of H1N1 virus precautions. It started off in Calgary with numerous hand sanitizing stations, to Houston where I saw about 20 travelers wearing masks (granted, the majority of them were wearing them as beanies on top of their head, or as neck warmers....) to arriving in Panama (with no reported cases) and having masked medical personnel meeting our plane as well as many more masked people throughout the terminal! I felt like I had stepped on the soundstage for the movie “Outbreak”!

The last time we were in Panama was 1995 and Roger was working on a project to widen the canal. I came on my first trip to Central America and we’ve seen a lot of changes. The country has prospered, but the slums, drugs, and corruption are apparently still a part of life. The country held elections this week, and a new president was named. Fireworks and celebrations in the streets took place, and time will tell if he brings about changes. Some workers told us it doesn't matter who is in power, but voting is mandatory and failure to vote can lead to imprisonment. The taxi drivers are great tour guides and most of them speak excellent English.
After a few days, we moved from downtown to a hotel at the entrance to the canal (which was closer to the office), and from our balcony, we worked on the inventory system that Roger is trying to set up. It’s really interesting watching the ships line up to be guided through a narrow channel just a stone’s throw away.

Bridge of the Americas at sunset...
Roger took the weekend off, and we spent Saturday exploring Casco Antigua (the old Spanish section of Panama City) where the narrow cobblestone streets reminded me of Spain.
It was neat to see this tree growing out of a chimney...

...and the plumeria were beautiful after a rainstorm.

This cat must have been smiling after reading about Roger’s “pate” incident in Spain.... (see previous blog entry in case you missed it!)

On Sunday we went for a boat ride on the canal to Monkey Island where we observed different species of monkeys, as well as reptiles including several crocodiles and their babies. So, we can officially say we went on a Panama cruise, albeit on a 24 foot tour boat...

On the way back to the marina, the heavens opened up and we got drenched despite wearing rain ponchos. It was a really interesting trip though – and of course, a Kinley being on a boat is never a bad thing.
Roger is headed back out to camp in a few days, and it looks like I’ll head back to Idaho. Will I continue to aim low to avoid disappointment? I hope not – but for this trip, I think Dwayne’s advice was right on the money.

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