That's what happens when I'm writing with a child asking, "Is it my turn on the computer yet?" every few seconds - I forget things! We went to the Panama Canal! Hello, that's HUGE.
Rob and I saw it nine years ago when we were there for Jackie and Marcelo's wedding. It is a sight to see. We have pictures of a barge being raised in one of the locks, so check out our pictures at kodak (link in last Panama entry). They have a great museum there, and we watched an ancient video about the building of the canal. They are planning an expansion, and this time it will be sustainable in that the water will be recycled and reused. Right now, it uses fresh water that gets flushed out to sea and replenished by their abundant rain during the rainy season!
Before we went to Boquete, we spent a day in Panama City. Panama City is fascinating for its diversity and hustle and bustle like any big city. There are long corridors of street markets, and I wanted the kids to see that. We didn't go down some of the busier (and darker and scarier) ones, but they got a chance to experience the vendors as they hawk you when you're even remotely within earshot and they constantly pull things off shelves to show you and share their special prices. I find it very unnerving to do the market scene. I would love nothing more than to peruse the shops and corridors without anyone bothering me, so I could take my time, look closely at all the items, without feeling the pressure to nod and agree that yes, that sounds like a good price, and yes, those shirts are very nice, but no, I don't want to buy them right now. I feel badly telling them no, but they force you to be rude and distant just to get out of their shop!
We stopped for lunch at a stand, where all you do is sit down and a plate of food is placed in front of you. There is no choice, you get what they're making that day - in grand portions. That day it was a mound of rice (always, and always cooked just right), lentils, fried plantains, a piece of fried chicken, and two tomato slices.
Rob and Jonathan found a shop that sold soccer jerseys and would print any name on the back. Jonathan bought a Brazil jersey and had Ronaldinho printed on the back! The vendor there also supplied Rob with another standing joke for the week. Every time a pretty girl would walk by, the man would look up, whistle, and shout, "Mi amor!" and then promptly return to whatever he was doing. Rob said it was like clockwork - he did it the same way, each time a girl walked by. Rob thought it was so funny that every time I walked near, he whistled and said, "Mi amor!" which apparently was quite funny to the rest of the gang. I'm sure they got equal amusement from my eye-rolling reactions.
From Panama City we made a stop in Chorrera, to visit Sebastiana and Balbino. They were surrogate parents to Jackie while she was in the peace corp, and Mom and I had stayed with them several times during past visits. In fact, I knew them better than Marcelo's family - until now, of course. Their house was the same, they looked the same, and it was nice to see them. They fed us, of course, and I took our kids and Sebastiana's grandkids next door to play soccer. The neighbor kids were peering at us curiously, so I ventured over and asked if they'd like to kick the soccer ball. That poor woman next door, next thing she knows there are 20 kids in her yard (she had 10 kids of her own!) playing with the soccer ball and a white woman trying to speak very poor Spanish and make conversation. Probably about the last thing she expected on an ordinary night!
From there we left for our drive to Boquete.
I know it doesn't matter if I get it all down just right, but I like to have the story for myself since the memories fade with time. It's amazing how quickly things come back to you when you're there - the language, of course, but also the faces and the experiences - but it's upsetting how quickly the memories get foggy. Especially since our two worlds are so vastly different. When I'm there, I wonder how I could ever forget the sensory experience - the smells, the heat, the sounds, the fears, the swirl. But after a day or two home, the memories are almost dream-like. I usually wake up the first morning back in a very confused state, not knowing where I am, and I have incredible dreams for a few nights. It's fascinating, and sometimes difficult to transition. And that's after ten days! I can't imagine how it was for Jackie to live in both worlds for a while. Or for Marcelo, to leave his home to live in a place so utterly different.
I think Jonathan caught the wanderlust, too. He was very interested in learning about foreign exchange programs, and he has a list of places he'd like to visit. Now, to find the money.... !