I’ve been through there a couple times and remember a lot of elegant buildings that are falling into ruin, a lot of trash in the streets, and a lot of black people out and about. But our perception is not the whole picture so let’s see what is said by the people who live there and love it. This video is from a couple years ago.
Then, watch just a little of this video. She is supporting someone who is getting involved in politics to help improve the lives of people in Colon. He also has a foundation to help kids with extra instruction, activities, and support. At 4:20 she talks a bit about the man, at 5:38 what he does in the community, and at 6:00 the toy drive he is organizing.
Then, I found this video where she interviews Delano. He talks about the culture, history, problems, poverty, and challenges facing the people in Colon.
Then, I happened across this other video of a guy walking around Colon. It’s interesting that he also says the government must help these people. They are just trying to survive and don’t have the resources to clean up and restore this city. According to Delano (video above) their minimum wage is the same as it was literally decades ago and if things were tough then, we can imagine how much worse it is now at today’s prices.
Here’s a taste of what it’s like in Colon. Us gringos and expats usually don’t spend time there, and maybe we only see it if we are passing through.
I’ve been watching VGIRL TV on YouTube for a while. She’s a young mother who lives in Panama City. She talks about what’s going on in the city and in the country. Sometimes we follow her around as she lives her daily life. Sometimes she interviews people about interesting social and cultural topics, or she tells us about people who have impacted her. I’m an old white lady so learning about the concerns of a young black woman trying to make her way in the world has been very interesting. It doesn’t hurt that she has a cool son and the cutest baby girl ever.
Lately I’ve been watching some of her videos about Colon, her family home. Colon is not the most respected part of Panama. But, when you see it through the eyes of the people who live there, you can see it differently. Many of the people are black, English speaking people who came from the Caribbean islands to help build the canal. The area looks very depressed with beautiful, elegant buildings that have fallen into disrepair. The people are poor and don’t have the means to do more than just survive. They feel very abandoned by the government who does next to nothing to help and support them.
I have learned a lot about Colon from Shana (VGIRL), and I’ll be writing a more in-depth article very soon. But right now, this is about the kids and the upcoming holidays. Christmas is a really big deal in Panama, and can you imagine how sad you would be if you couldn’t afford to buy your kids anything for Christmas? Shana is organizing a toy drive to help as many kids as possible.
If you donate through the GoFundMe page, your money will be used to buy useful and delightful gifts for the kids. If we all work together, we can make this happen! $5, $10, it doesn’t have to be a lot. Even a few dollars can buy a book, some crayons, a doll, or a ball.
Thank you so much! The people in Colon are strong, loving people struggling to survive with very little support. Your gift will not only put a smile on the face of a child, but it will also tell the people that some stranger out there in the world cares about them which, IMO, is equally important. Sometimes a little ripple spreads out and becomes a big thing, so let’s spread good things.
In my last post I was thinking about what has changed for me in the ten years since I moved here. I forgot to mention the things I used to take for granted. You open the faucet and expect water to come out. Here in Panama, however, this is often not the case. We have learned to save water, to shower at midnight when the water is on, and use very little water when it’s not (which is a good idea all the time too). I have bathed in water dripping from the roof, which is surprisingly cold. Many use nearby rivers but I’m too lazy to trek down to ours. We have installed a reserve tank and pump so it’s not a problem anymore, but even that isn’t a guarantee. Twice our house (which at the end of the line) had the meter clogged with mud and debris so the water couldn’t flow. The first time we contacted the water company and nothing happened, and we were without water for a week. Then we learned it’s best to call a plumber and he had it going that day. Whew. You don’t realize how much you depend on having clean water available! When we are without it makes me think of all the people in the world who never have clean water.
We’re in the city of David so our other utilities are pretty reliable, but that isn’t the case everywhere. Many have to deal with frequent power and internet outages. Our roads are pretty good all the way to our house but in many areas, roads are bumpy and in poor repair. There are even roads that are one lane now because part of the other lane washed out. We’re used to our roads but it’s always a surprise to go back to the US and see all the well maintained roads with curbs, painted lines, road signs, streetlights, and no potholes. We’re just starting to get some street signs here and more traffic lights are badly needed.
We take all our fresh produce for granted here. We go back to the US and there is SO much of everything. Would you like big carrots, small ones, orange, white, purple, organic? Everything looks perfect and costs a lot. Here it may not be perfect but it’s fresh, delicious, and locally grown. Enrique comes to our house every week with his truck loaded with whatever he bought early that morning. This was $24 last week – (from the left) cucumbers, tomatoes, mamon chinos (rambutans), potatoes, cauliflower, onions, beets, brocoli, lettuce, carrots, green beans, chayote (a summer squash type veggie), zapayo (a winter squash type veggie), and bananas.
I haven’t tormented you all with bugs and wildlife for a while. I spend a lot of time in my “outside office” and see a lot of visitors, especially at night. This really pretty bug was here the other night. I used to have a lizard that visited every night looking for the bugs that came to my desk lamp. While we were gone my neighbor cared for the dog and the house, and turned off every light, every power strip, everything! 🙄 When we came back, I didn’t see any more of the lizard. But the other night, this smaller, different one showed up so maybe he’ll be back and I’ll have another desk lizard.
We’ve been really busy with the music. Chris, our drummer, has been away and the venue said they’d rather have us as a duo than replace us with another band. So, we had to hustle and put together evenings with midi backing tracks and the drum machine. We use both at home for practice but to play in public, we had to be super organized so everything would run smoothly. This is where we play. The first picture is the venue, the Boquete Brewing Company, pretty wet with rain but people were still coming out to enjoy the evening which we appreciated. The second is our stage setup ready to go.
Last week I tried video recording us and it came out better than I expected. Chris is back now and will be with us this weekend, so we are very happy. I’ll have to try recording us again with all of on stage.
Since our band is Monkey Nerve with the three of us, I figured Dos Monos (Two Monkeys) would work for the duo. Monkey Nerve is that nerve in your body that when you hear fun music, it makes your body twitch, your feet tap, and you have to start dancing.
It’s been raining so much here! I wish we could share with all the people who are drying up for lack of rain. It’s been raining here all afternoon so when you are finished rehearsing, what do you do? I’m in my “outside office” writing to you all in my blog. 😊
In a few months we will be begging for rain. I’m glad we are mostly home so it’s easy for us to relax and enjoy these rainy afternoons.
Ten years ago, I got on a plane bound for Panama with a suitcase and a laptop bag. I had little idea what the future would hold. Ten years later I’m still here with Joel in the same city and in the same house, and I can say it worked out better than I ever imagined.
We didn’t do it “right” and explore multiple locations and spend lots of time staying in our favorites. We spent five days in Panama City – the country felt good but at our age, that was too much city. Then, we decided to try the next biggest city, David. We spent five days here and it looked like it would work for us. Decision made. What’s the worst that could happen? We would change our minds and try something else. We had gotten rid of almost all of our stuff so we were free and flexible. But, it worked out and we are happy here.
What has changed in ten years? My Spanish wasn’t very good when I arrived. I could ask basic questions and sometimes understand the answers but it was a struggle. I’ll never be 100% or say everything correctly, but now it’s much easier. I am confident that I can start a conversation with anybody and get along fairly well. This is huge because anything else that is difficult, you can ask these kind and helpful people and they will do their best for you.
We are much better at getting things done, now that we have done most things before. We know how to pay the light bill or renew the tags for the car, all those chores that need to be done wherever you live. But when you come here you have to learn new procedures, and sometimes these procedures can look confusing and inefficient to us. You have to learn where to look for things you need to buy, and where you find them may not make any sense to you. But in time, everything becomes more familiar and less stressful.
We are much more settled in. At first, we made many “field trips” to explore other areas in our new country. Now we have seen pretty much everything we think we need to see. Also, COVID taught us that we can spend months and months at home without a problem (well maybe it’s a problem because afterward it’s harder to get yourself OUT of the house 😯) but we are less driven to go out and do things and we are more content to just enjoy ordinary days.
We have learned SO much! At first everything was new, the food, the plants, the bugs, birds, jokes, greetings, everything! Now I pretty much know which fruits are what and which ones I like. I know how to get things done, or who to ask if I need help with something. Greeting people on the street is second nature. I have learned many of the local recipes, I have grown local food plants and flowers, and I have killed and cleaned a chicken (and made it into dinner). I’ve gone places and done things I never would have done or experienced in my previous life.
And, very interesting, I’ve looked at the USA through the eyes of my Panamanian friends. The USA is seen as a goal, a mecca of opportunity where you can earn good money. They believe what they see on TV and what they hear from people who have visited there. They often don’t understand that it will take every bit of that higher paycheck and more just to survive. You can’t walk into a public clinic and get seen right away for a few dollars. You can’t expect everybody to treat you with kindness and respect when they see your brown skin and hear you speaking with an accent. Many are surprised when I tell them that there are many things that are better in Panama. I love how the Panamanians love to laugh, how they love their family and friends, and how enjoying life is more important that working like crazy. They work hard and often put in long hours for not much money, but it seems like they usually enjoy their work and the people they interact with on the job. I used to tell people “don’t work too hard” and get puzzled looks in response. Life here just seems more relaxed and fun, and we appreciate the strong feelings of community. There are obvious and subtle cultural differences that I find very interesting, and I’ve found a lot to admire.
I think that’s the main points that come to mind at this moment. It’s a mix between comfortable and familiar, and new and different things which keeps life interesting. People often ask if we intend to move back to the USA at some point. No, we do not. Who knows what the future holds but I can say with certainty, today, we are happy here and plan to stay.
I know I have a blog, and the point of a blog is to write things or post pictures or do something with it. I’ve been terribly lax for weeks. But at the moment I’m sitting on the terrace watching it rain and enjoying some free time, so why not check in.
I’ve said before, I don’t know how I had time to work. I seem to keep busy every day and never get to the end of my “to do” list. But I don’t set my alarm clock in the morning, and I often enjoy laying around a while before I get out of bed. I don’t do much work in the evenings. I don’t carefully schedule every hour of every day like I used to when I was working. I’m retired now and enjoying the benefits.
The band always keeps me busy, and this week has been busier than usual. Our drummer is in Florida with his sick mother, and we are pretty concerned about her and him. They both had the flu and he’s better, but she doesn’t seem to be improving. He can’t leave her alone there in this condition so there is no way of knowing when he will be back. We consulted with the owner of our venue and it was decided that we will play as a duo for the foreseeable future.
No big deal, right? Turn on the drum machine and go. We also have midi files we can use as backup, but which songs are going to use which? Who is going to run what? How do we be sure we are all starting at the same time when we are working with a midi file that may or may not have a count in? How does it end? We need to connect these drums to the mixing board and have the appropriate speakers. We need to be sure one song isn’t super loud and the next one is too quiet. What is that instrument in the background that sounds like a strangled goose? But if we use the drum machine it does exactly the same thing until we hit the stop button, no breaks, no changes for different parts of the song, not a shred of humanity. But some songs are straightforward throughout and this works well.
This is what we have been working on all this week and today, finally, dress rehearsal went well. We’ll do it again tomorrow and then we should be ready to take it out. Thank goodness our neighbors don’t mind the music. They have listened to the same 30 songs every day since Tuesday! Unless you are a musician, when you go to hear music, you have no idea of all the work and preparation that goes on behind the scenes. And we are only doing it on a tiny scale in a bar, not some big venue with tons of people and equipment to make it all happen. And, these are all songs we already know well.
It’s rainy season and it seems like we have been getting rain every day, sometimes really heavy downpours. I don’t mind the rain and the plants sure are happy. Everything is growing and the weeds are having a great time. I like to work in the yard in the late afternoon when it’s cooler but that doesn’t work out if it’s raining. So, excuse the weeds in my yard. I’ll get to them eventually.
And, I decided to paint the house. It was yellow but the landlord had the fence and wall out front painted this really nice, mellow, kind of mango or peach or coral color which I like a lot better. We painted some of the house quite a few years ago, and the rest that you can’t see from the street was done who knows how long ago so a fresh coat of paint is a big improvement. But this is morning work. My idea is to work until noon or 1pm until it’s too hot outside. Then the paint can dry before the rains come later in the day, and the sweating that happens at night. Yes, I said sweating. When it cools down at night the metal roof sweats and the water trickles down the outside walls. Weird huh? Occasionally when it really sweats I can hear the drops of water falling on the upper side of our drop ceilings. Such is life in the tropics and the land of high humidity.
Sometimes there are also the sad moments. I learned today that an old friend died, someone I’ve known for at least 50 years. We were close friends in college and lived a few blocks from each other in NYC. We spent a lot of time together and weathered many ups and downs in each other’s lives. We drifted apart when I left the city but we always kept in touch, and we got together on my visits back if he was in town. None of us get out of here alive and as we get older, we are likely to lose more of our friends. Live for today and appreciate the people in your life today because you just never know what tomorrow will bring.
So, that’s what is happening around here. We’re off to the Boston area soon to visit my sister in her new retirement home and she’s looking forward to sharing a lot of what the area has to offer, and it will be fun to have some time together.
Richard Philbrick has been a friend of ours for many years. He’s a very interesting guy. He’s worked in journalism and publishing. He’s written books. He’s been a boat captain, sometimes delivering boats for people across the Atlantic. He’s lived in France and on a boat in New Orleans. I’m sure I don’t know the half of the adventures and interesting experiences he’s had!
We met here in Panama when he was selling his motorcycle. It sounded like a good idea but he was smart enough to know it wasn’t practical at his age. We were smart enough not to buy it at our age. But we’re been friends ever since. He lived in a town down the road, probably the only gringo there. He spoke Spanish, made friends, and was welcomed into the life of the town by the locals. He lived a low key life, took the bus around, adopted and cared for an injured dog, and wrote books and a blog. https://onemoregoodadventure.com/
Richard has always been super nice to me, supporting me in whatever crazy ideas I have come up with. I remember when I went biking through Costa Rica, when we passed his town he was in the street waiting for us because he wanted to cheer us on. He reads my blog and comments, and shares helpful ideas. He applauded my endeavor to learn to play bass. It’s really nice to have a friend like that in your corner.
Richard is getting older, like all of us (he recently turned 80!) but he didn’t let that squash his dreams. He loved living on a small boat in the past and wanted to do that again, so he ended up on the gulf coast of Florida living in a sailboat. He’s working on a book for others who live in boats, helping them find quiet spots to anchor their boats and enjoy the area. He met someone with some land in northeast Florida who offered to let him anchor there, so that’s his home base right now. He’s made some road trips, and I’ve heard dreams of making some boat trips to explore the rivers and waterways of the southeast. He spent his birthday in Chicago with a special lady friend.
BUT, it is not all rainbows and unicorns. Richard has heart trouble and has suffered with COPD as long as I’ve known him. It’s gotten to the point where it’s seriously impacting his ability to do any activity, not a good thing for a guy with lots of dreams and more living to do. It’s painfully obvious he needs supplemental oxygen and a portable concentrator. But those machines are really expensive and Richard lives on his social security. Medicare won’t help unless you are on oxygen 24/7 😡 and Richard doesn’t “qualify” because he can keep his oxygen levels up to acceptable numbers when he is sitting still doing nothing. It’s only when he’s doing something, like walking 20 feet, that his levels start dropping into the 80’s (normal is 97 or above) and he starts struggling to breathe.
So… if you have a few dollars to send his way, it would be a great help. If enough of us give even a little, it will make a difference. Lets get this good guy back on his feet again!
We’ve been here almost ten years so you would think the newness has worn off. But it seems like there is always something I’ve never seen before.
What is this? We found a total of four of these hard little balls covered with twigs sticking out of them. They are a little bigger than a pencil eraser. Joel knocked one off the gate and said he found a little yellow worm inside. I’m going to leave the others alone to see what happens.
Then recently, we found this critter crawling up the laundry room wall
I haven’t bothered you all with bug pictures nearly as much as I did in the past, but I have a couple more to share. This is just a pretty little moth that landed on my table one night,
We chased this rather large spider out of the kitchen last night. That’s a water bottle with it for scale. We have so many and such a large variety of spiders, but this one is bigger than what we usually see.
I’ve heard of dung beetles in Africa but never expected anything like that here. We were walking one day and I noticed something rolling around in the street. It was this beetle rolling a ball of what was probably dog poop. It was fairly fast but had no sense of direction. One of the neighbors said oh yes, they have seen them before too.
Then, on a totally unrelated subject, a couple food pictures. The vegetables are $17 worth that we got from the produce guy who visits us every week. You probably recognize everything but the chayote, the green thing between the carrots and potatoes. It’s a mild squash that can be eaten raw or cooked, and is very yummy.
The other picture is chickens that were delivered this morning. We didn’t have any chicken so we bought a bit from Pricesmart (our version of Costco). We won’t do that again. Then we tried the supermarket down the street (El Rey) and that was much better, but dinner tonight? No comparison! These chickens are raised by a neighbor in his yard, and are so fresh that they were running around this morning. They are SO delicious! For $2/pound we get healthy, excellent chicken and we support our neighbor’s business, a win all around. Sure, the supermarket is less money but these are so much better.
Tonight we had one of our favorites, coconut chicken. Legs and thighs are my favorite for this. Put the chicken in a baking dish, pour over some coconut oil (the good stuff with smell and flavor). Sprinkle on seasonings of your choice (I usually use Italian and Morton’s Natures Seasons). If you want to get them going faster microwave for 6-7 minutes at this point. Sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan cheese on top and put in the oven at medium heat. Check every half hour or so, and cover with foil if the top is getting too browned. They should be ready in 1 1/2 – 2 hours, when the meat is falling off the bones.
Yes, those are some chubby chickens, about 7 pounds each. They come cleaned with the feet, necks and organs inside. I have cleaned chickens (what a mess, feathers everywhere!) I appreciate it every time they come over with these delicious, ready to cook chickens.
Other than that, just life here. There were protests blocking the street and bringing the country to a halt, but that’s in the past and life is back to normal. They lowered the price of medicines but haven’t worked out how to cover the costs with the pharmacies, so the pharmacies were closed for a while. I think now they are open again but without discounts until this issue is worked out.
We’ve had a lot of rain, more than I think is expected this time of year. Everything is growing like crazy which means more yard cleanup, which is hard to get to when it’s raining. But, I get out there when I can. One thing here, people are way less fussy about yards which is nice. Of course they like nice looking yards and most have lots of pretty flowers and food producing plants. But, if you have weeds or things are getting overgrown, nobody really cares. There is no HOA to fuss at you. Their main concern is that overgrown areas may have snakes. We have perennial peanut in our yard, a pretty ground cover that needs minimal maintenance. The locals think snakes like it and are concerned, but we see very few snakes and I’ve never seen one hiding in the peanut.
So, that’s the news of the moment, what little there is. It’s after 5 PM now and it’s been raining for about a hour. If you don’t have to go anywhere it’s very nice. It’s cooler and I’m sitting on the terrace watching it rain and listening to the birds.
Whew! Life is returning to normal in Panama. There were protests for over three weeks that shut down the Panamerican Highway, the only highway through the country. Panama City was running out of perishables that come from Chiriqui, the western province where we live. We were running out of gasoline, diesel, and cooking gas among other things. Everything came to a halt because nothing and nobody could move through the country. We were fine but it was very hard for many people who couldn’t work, which meant lost pay which they needed to take care of themselves and their families. Many people were stranded and there were pictures of tourists walking miles to the airport. Once in a while a roadblock would open for a few hours for humanitarian reasons and people would line up at gas stations hoping to be one of the lucky ones who could buy $20 worth of gas. But even if trucks could get through one roadblock, they might be stopped at the next one. Produce was rotting in the streets because it spent so long in transit. It was quite the mess!
It seemed like everyone was protesting everything. It started with government corruption and high gas prices, but then teachers, health care professionals, labor unions, indigenous groups, and others all joined in with their various concerns and demands. The government finally decided to gather in a central location and invite representatives from all the groups to sit down and try to reach agreements, and these talks are still ongoing. But, a couple days ago the protesters announced that the population had suffered enough and they were going to reopen all the roads. It seemed like almost overnight, the country woke up again! Things were moving around, people were getting what they needed, and you could almost hear the country breathe a big sigh of relief.
Today we decided to venture out to the gas station and supermarket. Everything looked great! We were able to fill up our gas tank with no waiting. When we passed by on our way home there were maybe three cars in line and a gas tanker arriving with more fuel. That was a wonderful sight.
The supermarket looked good with plenty of eggs, milk, and other supplies. The meat supplies looked low but there was still enough to give a shopper choices. The freezer aisle though… the trucks must have just arrived because the aisle was jammed with piles of boxes and many workers putting things away in the freezers.
We also stopped by PGT, our mailing service. They said they received nothing until yesterday when everything arrived all at once. They were very busy sorting through all the packages and notifying customers that their things had arrived.
I hope everyone is able to get their issues sorted out so everyone can continue to enjoy a more normal life now. You don’t realize how much you rely on things until they aren’t available. If you have no gas in the kitchen, how do you cook? If you have no gas in your car, how do you get to work? Our neighbor who works at the hospital was driving whatever family car had gas so he could make it. It feels really good now to see that people are able to do what they need to do.
Then… I see a news link on Facebook. Protestors have closed the road in Penonome (central Panama) ☹️ Hopefully everyone is where they need to be and fairly well restocked, and any other closures are short and not so troublesome.
But, on a positive note, through all of this hardship and frustration, nobody was killed. A few were hurt one time when some very frustrated farmers tried to push their way through a roadblock. The only property destroyed was a police car by some kids who weren’t even a part of the protests. I can only imagine how much worse it must be to live in a war zone, or even through protests in other places that have turned destructive and violent. We feel very fortunate to be in the good country.
Things are a mess in Panama at the moment. We heard about protests when we were back in the USA and now, after more than two weeks, things don’t seem any better. The Panamerican Highway is the one artery through the country, and protesters have blocked it in multiple locations which has pretty much shut down the country. We live in Chiriqui province where a lot of food is produced for the whole country, but the trucks laden with food are stuck on the highway. Going the other way, trucks of fuel can’t make their way west to our area. Gas stations are closed and if there is even a rumor of a truck making it through, huge lines of cars form immediately.
Panama has suffered through the pandemic like the rest of the world, and now we are seeing high fuel prices which is a hardship for many. This is one factor in the protests. The people want the government to help keep fuel costs down and we thought there was an agreement, but not everyone was involved in the decision so the protests resumed almost immediately.
People are also very angry about government corruption. When people see politicians and officials living large and spending piles of money, and putting their friends and family members on the payroll for doing nonexistent work, people who are struggling to keep their families housed and fed are very angry.
There are also others involved. Health care workers are protesting the high costs of medicines and lack of funds for necessary doctors and other health care workers. Teachers are protesting that they aren’t getting paid. Farmers can’t make it with the high fuel costs. Labor unions are joining the fight for better conditions for their workers. Then, the indigenous joined to protest conditions in their lands. It feels like it’s a free for all, and everyone is protesting everything!
Lately they have been opening the highway for short periods of time to let food and fuel pass, but it’s going to take a lot more than this to resupply the country. There was a humanitarian caravan of food trucks that the government insisted be allowed to go to Panama City, but the police escort had to use tear gas to clear the road so they could pass. Unfortunately a lot of the produce was lost because it spent so much time in the trucks. Some fuel trucks are making their way here, but not nearly enough to fill the need.
People can’t get to work. Farmers are losing money on all the food they can’t sell. Tourists are stranded and others are staying away. This is impacting everyone! There are so many different groups, different demands, and different factors I don’t know how it’s all going to get sorted out. People are able to get some diesel which helps. Our veggie guy was able to work yesterday. But, another friend who needs regular gas spent all afternoon in gas lines with no success. One of the neighbors works at the hospital and I hear his car start in the mornings, but how long can he do that without putting more gas in his tank? Even if you are one of the lucky few who finds gas, you are only allowed $20 worth.
I’m starting to hear from people outside of Panama that we are making the news around the world. A google or YouTube search will bring up a number of news articles and videos.
As for us, personally, we are fine. Our veggie guy came yesterday so we have produce, and the freezer has enough food to last for quite a while. We have some gas in the cars and two bicycles, and we don’t have to go anywhere. We should go down the road and pay the electric bill soon but that’s only 3 km away. The band is on vacation for another 10 days until our drummer gets back, and I certainly hope things are better by then. Even if they aren’t, we have enough diesel in the car for quite a few trips up to Boquete.
But, this sure sucks for a lot of people! Cross your fingers that they get this sorted out so people can get back to work and take care of their families.
We were super fortunate on our trip. There are stories everywhere about problems with airline travel, but we took multiple flights with few problems. But our luck was bound to run out at some point. We got to the Dallas airport with plenty of time to make our flight to Houston, but the plane was delayed coming in. By the time we left we were 2 1/2 hours late and our flight to Panama had already left. So, we were stuck in Houston.
We waited at United customer service for an hour while the one lady there helped a large group ahead of us. Finally, 4 more employees arrived but unfortunately the one that helped us wasn’t experienced on how to rebook people. She got us on flights the next morning, but I had to insist and argue that she also rebook our flight from Panama City to David. With the protests going on and roads blocked, planes were filling up and I wasn’t about to take her advice and wait until we arrived in Panama City to take care of that. The more experienced lady stepped in and got us booked on the afternoon flight (the evening flight was full). They refused to give us hotel vouchers (thunderstorms, not the airline’s fault) but they did give us $30 each in food vouchers which was helpful.
HUGE shout out to our travel agent! I have a feeling she is busy enough, but I have to say it’s Andrea Cook. She takes very very good care of her people! Joel posted on Facebook that we were stuck in Houston, so when Andrea saw that she got on her computer to see what was going on with us. She discovered that the customer service people made a reservation on the afternoon flight, but they did not change the ticket from the previously booked morning flight to the afternoon one. This would have cost us a $250 change fee, each! She explained that you can change a ticket for around $30-35 (I forget exactly) but if you wait until the plane you were originally booked on departs, then you get the huge change fee (which is 2 1/2 times the cost of the original ticket. Go figure that one out.
Thankfully our flight out of Houston was perfectly on time because we had a very tight connection in Panama City, and I wasn’t familiar with how this works in the new Terminal #2. Our luggage also wasn’t checked through, so we had to deal with that.
We landed at Terminal #2, and hot footed it off the plane and to immigration (which was back in Terminal #1). No lines, thank goodness. We had to wait a little while for our luggage, and then we exited the area and asked for advice on getting back to terminal #2. There was a big white bus which took a somewhat scenic (ha!) route but landed us back at terminal #2. We probably could have walked faster but it was what it was. So, we go upstairs to check in and of course the kiosk doesn’t work for us (if they ever work it’s a big surprise). But, a nice man got us checked in and told us we will have to run “un poquito” (a little bit). Where? Waaaayyyy down there. Go downstairs, go outside, and turn left, and go to the very end of the terminal and there you’ll find domestic flights. We made it! We were the last ones on the plane but it was probably another 10-15 minutes before they closed the door. I was happy to message Andrea to tell her we were ok and she wouldn’t have to scramble to get us other tickets.
We made it home in the late afternoon instead of morning as planned, but we were home! I was happy we didn’t have to spend a night in Panama City and hope we could get seats on the early morning flight. Oh, but I forgot, it still wasn’t without complications. There was a bad thunderstorm in David so the plane had to circle around for maybe 1/2 hour hoping things would clear and they wouldn’t have to go back to Panama City. They eventually decided it was safe to land, but then we were stuck on the plan for quite a while more. They couldn’t open the door because it was raining so hard that water was gushing into the plane! But eventually the rain slowed, and we got off the plane and picked up our very wet luggage that had been unloaded earlier.
Our last concern – the car was parked at the airport all this time, but it started right up. We were able to back it out and avoid the jam at the front of the terminal. We only ran into one roadblock on the way home but there was an easy detour around it, so it wasn’t long before a very happy dog was greeting us at our front gate.
Roadblock? Yes, there have been protests and upheaval all over the country, but that’s a subject for another post coming soon.
It’s nice to be home. It was a great trip and we have so many happy memories, but it’s always nice to come home again.