Previously I posted this video of our experiences in Panamá, but it could not be viewed by iPad and Smart Phone users. I've uploaded it to YouTube, now everyone can see it. Thanks for hanging in there with me!
Our trip is over but as you can see our experiences and the people we meet will stay with us for a very long time. The most important part of my travels are the human connections that I'm able to make. Nothing satisfies me more than meeting new people from different cultures and different perspectives. Staying in a hotel separated from local people has never interested me much. Unlimited Margaritas and cruise ship tourist traps don't excite me at all.
My way of traveling is not for everyone. Cold showers, crowded bus rides, mystery meals, and late night Salsa parties are too much for people who seek relaxation, repetition, and routine. To me all the aspects that some may consider undesirable are worth the many many lessons I learn from actually making connections with the people I meet in my travels.
Here are some of the many people who touched me, and the boys, along the way:
José & Conchita, our host parents.
Their daughter Anahi was also there, seen in the background. She was very ill and on bed rest almost my whole stay there. My few encounters with her were lovely and I hope she gets well soon. ♥
My Bermudan housemates Jaeden and Sakima
♥ The kids at Casa Esperanza ♥
Melody, our tour guide. I know if we lived in the same city that we would be great friends, but since we don't I know we will be great FaceBook Friends.
Our experience in Panamá was arranged by Ileri Spanish School. Ileri arranged transportation to and from the airport, our home stays (which included breakfast and dinner), our Spanish classes, some of our tours, and our volunteer hours at Casa Esperanza. Basically they made sure we were well taken care of.
I even want to shout-out our host dogs, Chiqui and Dobi. Besides secretly peeing and #2-ing on my suitcases, when I wasn't looking, they were fun and kept us on our toes. In my mind these tough little guys were making sure mice and other tropical creatures didn't get comfortable in our temporary living space.
Our trip has come to an end, we are back home with AlphaPoppa and FoxyMama. We are very grateful and forever changed by our time in Panamá. We are looking for our next opportunity to travel abroad. I will look at where to go and start my saving strategy this week. I'll let you know where we plan to go, and why, as soon as we make a decision.
Thank you for joining us in Panamá, we hope you enjoyed our adventures and I hope you are inspired to take an adventure of your own. Stay tuned because I feel I owe you an explanation of how I became a travel-addict and how I feel in love with culture and language. Now that is a story worth hearing...
We all agreed to make our last day in Panama a great one. We started out with a certification ceremony for my students. They were very proud of the progress they made in Spanish and the community service they did at Casa Esperanza. After that we hung out for a while until it was time to go to the zoo.
Dude saying goodbye to his neighbor/ friend
near the school
The zoo is nothing like our Atlanta Zoo. I know from experience to not even expect such a thing. Our American zoos are huge and full of exotic African and Asian animals. Our zoos are big businesses, this zoo on the other hand cost $2 per visitor, $1 if you are a student. Most countries have small zoos that are used as animal refuge and rehabilitation centers. They are used primarily to showcase local animals and a few foreign animal visitors. The zoo in Panama had monkeys, macau, jaguars, and exotic birds. I got my best laugh was from seeing American racoons, very cute! These are definitely not the tigers, lions, and gorillas of the US but that was OK with us.
Caution, these animals bite
The zoo also doubles as a Botanical Garden (making the $2 price even better).
After the zoo, we headed out to lunch at a cheap buffet style restaurant for a $6 total. While we ate the rain started. Ya gotta love rainy season! While waiting for the rain to stop we put our heads together to decide how we wanted to spend our last day. We knew zip-lining was out, and a long trip to another part of the country was not an option. We decide that we really enjoyed our bike riding and ice cream day and would return to CoastWay. This time Zane got his own bike and afterward we all enjoyed ice cream; a Banana Split (for Zane), a Charlie Brownie (for me, of course) and a Muppet Ice Cream Cup for Dude.
Zane on his bike
Indigenous vendor selling jewelry at CoastWay
During our last night with Conchita I made sure to add myself to her Skype contacts, take a few pictures, and to pack for our early morning flight back to Atlanta. We definitely miss our friends and family back home but we truly enjoyed our time in Panamá. I'm so proud of Zane and Dude for their flexibility and adventurous spirits. We will definitely be traveling abroad this summer and I hope you and your family do too!
We have one, and only one, activity planned for today, Isla grande. Isla Grande is on the Caribbean coast and is promised to have clear blue-green water. We met our driver at 7:30 a.m. and headed toward the Caribbean coast. The drive was breathtakingly beautiful. We rode down a stretch of highway that ran along the rainforest floor, through sleepy caribbean towns with people laid out in their hammocks, over hills, down valleys, and curving around smooth roads.
Front seat view of our ride.
Ruins from Portobelo Fort on the way to Isla Grande
Once we arrived at our destination our next step was to take a boat over to the Isla Grande beach area. The boat ride was $3 each way and $4 each (excluding Dude) to be on the beach.
Clear blue water at the dock
Me and the boys on the boat
View of Isla Grande from our boat
Isla grande was just lovely we spent hours playing, splashing, and swimming.
Zane and Dude
Zane started playing with some of the local kids
swinging from this rope into the sea.
Zane found a cool tree and climbed it,
full tree shown below
Once we got hungry we walked around the island to the residential area. Locals were there fishing, living a simple life, and selling cheap meals for $2.50!!! Zane was adventurous enough to try octopus.
Local kids posing with a big catch.
Sleepy beach dog, living the life.
Zane eating octopus. He liked it.
Dude playing soccer with his big bro
Today is Good Friday
We hung out at the beach until 4 o'clock. We headed back to Panama City to find that it had been raining hard for hours. Knowing that we were on the beach and not caught in the rain in the city made our little excursion just a little bit sweeter. Conchita had dinner ready for us when we got home and we went to bed early. The boys were knocked out for the count!
After my students`class today we weren´t sure what to do that would be quick and cheap. I came here with the assumption that I would be able to see and do a lot more with Panamá being a small country and all, but boy was I wrong. One thing that I wanted to do but realized that I hadn`t done was visit Casco Viejo, which is Panamá City´s historic district. Since Casco Viejo has been in the back of my mind this whole trip I decided that this would be our best bet, so we hopped in a taxi that dropped us off here at La Plaza Catedral (shown above).
Outside the Cathedral there is a plaza, hence the name, that had many souvenirs for sale. All the vendors were indigenous Panamanians and one was willing to let me snap her picture, for $2! I`m very upset that I was not able to visit the indigenous parts of the country as my young Bermudan house mates did. They found it very interesting, so I will be sure that is on the top of my to do list when I return to Panamá.
Unfortunately almost all of Casco Viejo is under construction and being renovated but I was able to get a few good snapshots out of our little trip.
After about an hour and a half of shopping, roaming, and taking pictures I saw dark clouds roll in. We quickly made our way through an area called La Cinta Costera to the fish market to catch a taxi back to El Dorado. Tons of people were at the fish market buying fish for Good Friday tomorrow. I`ve been told that tomorrow everyone will eat fish as a tradition. We got to the fish market quickly, but we weren´t quick enough because we got caught in torrential downpour. Dude couldn`t have been happier to be soaking wet.
When I could finally get a taxi to pick up wet people we headed home,
back to Conchita and for the first time since we`ve been here Zane fell
asleep before dinner. All this traveling has him exhausted, but I can
tell he`s enjoying every bit of it.
Today we had a good day full of kid and family friendly surprises. We started off with making sure my students were safely checked into their classes and we headed out to the nearby strip mall, El Rey. Dude found a coin machine to keep him busy for a while. It cost $.25 and blasted out reggaeton and salsa while it bounced him around. Zane found some cheap video arcade machines.
Both of these silly boys found this green dancing laser flashing on the floor, so they rocked and rolled with it, having a great time.
El Rey Food Court
On the way back I stopped at a bakery and got some sweets for me and the boys and my new favorite drink Chicha de Piña, a yummy yummy Pineapple juice.
My new favorite drink Chicha de Piña
The rainy season it just starting here and it is raining daily. We returned to the school just in time for a Salsa and Merengue dance class and to not get soaked in the rain.
After the rain we went to CoastWay. CoastWay is a man made strip of land that splits the Pacific Ocean. It´s located near the Canal Zone and it is absolutely beautiful!
Zane at CoastWay
Pacific Ocean on both sides
Panoramic view of the strip after the rain
We saw bikes of all different kinds for rent, motorbikes, 4 wheelers, 10 speeds... but we decided on this little gem to help avoid any accidents of the possibility of losing a child! It cost $9.00 an hour and was totally worth it. I put Dude in the front and me and Zane peddled away. Dude thought he was flying, he was so cute.
Afterward we ate ice cream and watched the sun set. Today was a good day!
Last night was HOT!!! And I mean HOT. We all woke up tired because we were stuck to the sheets and uncomfortable most of the night. We woke up early ate breakfast with our host family and were off to a rare early start. While my students were in class Zane, Dude, and I walked to the store to get Gatorade and snacks. We are drinking as much as we can to stay hydrated in this heat!
After classes we stopped by our favorite Panamanian restaurant for lunch. ¡Sabroso!
Dude eating his favorite, arroz.
After we ate we walked over to the nearby strip mall´s post office to send postcards to friends and family in the U.S. This is one of the ways I save money and luggage space when I travel. People love the surprise of receiving their post card gift in the mail, seeing the different stamps, and it only cost $.25 to send off.
At the Post Office
After sending off our post cards we headed for our last day of service at Casa Esperanza. The ride is about half hour on the public buses, we took the newer buses this time ☺
Here are some of the sights we saw as we passed through the open markets near Casa Esperanza.
Once at Casa Esperanza we played with the kids, taught what we could, and enjoyed being in good company.
David- Student at Casa Esperanza
Me and some of the kids. Dude is sound asleep.
Daniela- Casa Esperanza Student
I'm so grateful for our our guide Melody. She made sure we got there and back safely everyday. She was also adventurous enough to take a bunch of gringos on the Diablo Rojo. ¡Muy buena gente es!
Melody and Me
Once we got home Conchita was there with delicious Arroz con Pollo and a typical Panamanian drink called Arroz con piña (Rice with Pineapple). There weren't rice grains in the drink at all but it was definitely yummy!
Conchita feeding Dude. She is spoiling him rotten!
Conchita and Dude chilling and watching TV.
Soon our Bermudan house mates will be leaving. They are awesome, well mannered kids and I´m happy to see them so international at such a young age. My sons will definitely miss having them in the house.
Jaeden and Sakima 13 yrs old Bermudan house mates
Once again we were pooped by the end of the day. It´s a cooler night so I know we will sleep well.