CARTAGENA TO PANAMA CITY…AND DAVID

       I arrived in Panama City and went through customs to show my passport. The agent asked for my Visitor’s card. I explained I already had one that was good for 90 days and presented it. He said I had to return to the Visitor’s Card Kiosk and get a new one because I had left the country and it was no longer valid.
        I returned but there was a $5 fee and I had only Colombian Pesos and a Credit Card. The
$20 bill, American ,was in my suitcase in the baggage claim area on the other side of
Immigration. The woman would not accept the Visa or the Pesos and there was no place to
change the money over to Dollars or ATM machine available. She referred me to the
Immigration office where I could complain to the Boss. I did and he laughed and sent me back
to her. Then she told me to go back to Copa Airlines and talk to them. I didn’t even fly on
Copa , I flew on Aries and what was the airlines supposed to do. What was I supposed to do
…spend the rest of my vacation in Immigration, sleeping on the floor with no bags in limbo
until my American flight returned me to the USA. A professional business man approached
and asked her what was my problem? She explained he paid my $5. I offered him $20 in Pesos
t he could cash easily on the other side and he said no problem you have enough of those
already. I turned to get back in line but now it was three plane loads long and up the stairs. I
understood what he meant.
        An hour and a half later I finally arrived to show the Immigration Official my Visitor’s
card and Passport but there were 5 carousels for baggage and Aries had come and gone. I
didn’t know which one my bag arrived on so went to each checking all the luggage and
anywhere I saw luggage I checked it. There were lost or stolen luggage offices for Copa,
American, and all airlines except Aries. I finally went upstairs to find the Aries counter but it
was closed because they only fly two or three flights a day and this was not the time to check
in for any of them. I went to information but she only spoke Spanish and had no idea what I
was trying to convey. I said my bag is not at the Aries baggage claim and all my medicine was
in it which I needed.  Some young Panamanian understood and translated then she told him
where the Aries office was behind the scenes.
I thanked him and started going down all these dark corridors behind the ticket desks until I
came up to a locked door with an Aries sign on it. I knocked and prayed at the same time
until one man answered and invited me in. I explained everything and he requested my claim
slip. He recognized it immediately and said yes I have your bag. I almost kissed him. Then he
took me back through Customs.   I had to leave my passport and get a special pass to enter the
baggage area. There he unlocked a holding room and there was my bag. I was so relieved.
        I paid $30 for a taxi and I checked into the Mar Mar that had Internet access. It cost
$38.50 and I assumed it was an upscale establishment. It was not. There was no shower head
on the shower, no knobs to control the Air Conditioner, no access to the pool on the roof,
none of the Computers worked, no hot water, I couldn’t open the windows or even open the
drapes to see out. It was a dump and I paid for two days with my Visa.
      I went over and met Loney at Fernando’s.
Fernandos
Spike or Jim as his name turned out to be showed up with a friend from Santiago, Chili
named Michael. He spoke fluent English and flew around the world buying up beach property,
then designing and building or remodeling his own home He would then sell  it and move on.
He made good money and did it mostly by himself. Michael had just bought a small
motorcycle to get him around the backwater in search of property.


        Jim was saying that everyone in Panama could pick themselves up and be a success.
Lonnie said more than 36% never attend school and on $300 a month it is difficult to get
ahead even with a education the companies won’t pay much more. Jim kept talking how he
was poor and made a life but Loney pointed out that that was in the states. Then Loney was
talking about his wife and daughter in Panama. They were gassed with a drug that puts you to
sleep, robbed of everything in the house, and awoke the next day without any knowledge of
what happened. The police were of no help. He put a sign in the neighborhood advertising a
$500 reward but only one person called and he said it was his brother. The police thought it a
Vendetta against his brother but wanted to arrest him to show they were doing there job.
Loney wouldn’t press charges then the police came and requested they give him the reward
money since they worked so hard on the case and get paid next to nothing.
      Michael said if Loney didn’t like it in Panama, why doesn’t he move instead of
complaining? Loney has been here 5 years and loves it. He was just explaining to Jim how
corruption and the system make it difficult for everyone. He owns a three bedroom house, is
married and has a daughter. Michael pissed him off and for a minute I thought Lonnie was
going to hit him but Michael choose to move before he did. Loney told Jim he knew nothing
about Panama and stormed off to eat.
        Michael picked up Marji from Senegal, Africa. A very attractive intelligent prostitute and
though I saw him around ,he didn’t join us for a couple of nights.
Then Orlando and Fernando join us. They graduated from Balboa Catholic High School in
Panama City back in the ’60s. They grew up together and were like brothers. They both had a
good education and spoke fluent English so left Panama right after graduating. Fernando
joined the Navy and was in Vietnam during the end of the war. Orlando had joined the Army
around the same time but never got sent to Vietnam. They were retired now after living in
Monterrey, California, Germany, and different parts of the world for the last 35 years. We
enjoyed a great conversation. They were very charismatic and intelligent. Orlando gave up
drinking and smoking years ago and is Fernando’s designated driver. Orlando knew a
musician in Phoenix called Young Ocean. He plays hip hop, rap and that thing but asked me
to say hello if I saw him.
        They left when Julio, a English teacher from Venezuela introduced himself and asked to
join us.  I think Julio, being obviously drunk, attracted the attention of the local street
prostitutes and within minutes there were three

Julio,Friends?and Fernando
of them sitting with us asking if we had wives or were alone, what hotel, etc. I got out of there
and despite my suggestion, Julio was Kissee face with them like a kid in a candy store.


        My Second day in Panama City was pretty uneventful. I did manage, after visiting 3
Internet Cafes to find one that would fax out my Mother’s taxes. It took over an hour on this
antiquated fax machine and $15 for 15 pages. I have no idea if they were ever received at
Shangri La where I live. Tomorrow I will find out. I did book a flight and a room in David but
got my dates screwed up and am leaving on the 22 of February but don’t have a room in
David until the 23rd. All hotels and hostels are booked solid.
        I will not stay in this dump I’m at anymore .   I decided to return to the place I stayed
before, but they were booked.   I got a room at the Acapulco
next door for my last two days for $33 and am moving tomorrow.


        After dinner I stopped at Fernando’s and saw Tony from Chicago. He had befriended
Kyle from Seattle, a Fresh water fish Biologist that is a Scuba diver and a big fan of “South of
the Border” countries. He has also been to Laos , Cambodia, Thailand as well as Mexico ,
Nicaragua , Costa Rica and arrived yesterday to Panama. Kyle is taking a language course in
Spanish at Anita’s Hostel where I stayed the first week. Anita’s was full this time of year so he
is staying at the Acapulco.   Tony talked about all his women and sounded like the braggart
David that I met in Cartagena the last night. He finally went over to the casino and Lonney
showed up for a beer before dinner. He left then Julio, the Venezuelan school teacher I met
last night arrived. We introduced everyone and talked about teaching. Julio has a Master’s
Degree in Venezuelan Literature and teaches at a University for high school graduates that
can’t afford an education. It was set up by Hugo Chavez to give underprivileged students an
opportunity to get a higher education. He also teaches English in High School. He said that
before Chavez, he could barely afford a used car on his salary. He loved the American
expression, “Helluva” He made a point of giving us one of his teaching aides:
If Mrs. Zippy were to wear Miss Zouris new dress, what would Dela Wear.
I’ll ask her.
Mississippi. Missouri, Alaska
        His wife showed up along with his friends that were on a 6 day tour. I had a photo in my
camera of him kissing a black prostitute the night before

Julio in Lustbut kept it to myself.
Jorge, his neighbor arranged their tour for a cheap price.   Jorge was on his way to the casino
to meet some of the local girls. He had been to Singapore and pretty much around the world,
yet he spoke no English. Julio’s met his wife in college back in the ’70’s and after 10 years of
dating , married and have 3 children. His daughter is 24 studying law, his 18 year old boy is
in the University to be a Mechanical Engineer and his other son at 17 is preparing for college.
All speak fluent English because he and his wife started them when they were young children.
He also has three other young children he raises that belonged to his adopted sister. She had
a rare Brain cancer and died so they took the children in. He said none of this would have
been possible without Hugo Chavez and the changes he made his 9 years as President. He
pays $1 a gallon for gas and now drives a new economy car. He has been to Bogota and did
his Thesis on Corruption in Government. We all exchanged emails, book titles and movies to
see.
        I went home but on the way to the hotel the hooker that was trying to get Julio in bed last
night stopped me to ask if I am available. I told her no and then she asked for $2 which I gave
her to buy a soda or something while she waited for her next trick on the patio. She spoke
good English and had said she lived in Flushing, N. Y. a few years ago.
        Kyle and I met for breakfast the next morning then took off for Costa Viejo and went to
both the History Museum
(a joke) and then to the Canal Museum
that was rather nice. The problem with the Canal Museum was they never mentioned the
almost 70 years the 33rd Infantry Regiment was stationed along with other troops from the
USA in over 10 different forts all over the Canal Zone and the contribution they made during
and after WWI and WWII. They only showed the history of the building, giving most of the
credit to the French.  The big theme was about Panama’s taking back the canal from President
Carter in a Treaty he signed in the ’70’s and became official in 1999.


        We left and stopped at the Café that I visited before.

Kyle studying the local architecture.
  We walked to the Plaza Francia
, the old Church
and the neighborhoods around the area.   



We took a taxi that dropped me at the hotel, so I could transfer over to the Acapulco, and took
him to his Spanish lesson on the other side of town.


        I checked in and unpacked took a shower and put on clean clothes. I had been wearing
the same shirt and shorts for the last two days because I refused to unpack anything in that
filthy joint I had been staying at. Now I felt like a new person.  I then then meet Loney and his
wife Marcia at Fernando’s .  She was sharp and very classy. She had spent a month is Spain
and traveled a little of Central America. Tony showed up then Kyle. Loney and Marcia left
then Michael arrived with his girlfriend from Senegal.  He brought his laptop and was showing
us homes he had built or remodeled on a slide show.  Nice places near the beaches of the
world.  Kyle and I when to dinner.  It was night to sleep in a real hotel room that night.
     I was to meet Kyle at the Plaza Francia for lunch but he didn´t make it.  I took some photos
San Jose Church 1675
and browsed the shops then had a great Pizza with the best coffee
in the world and a Chocolate Torte to end it. 
Cost me $2 for this Photo and you
get a copy FREE!  Notice the beaded ankles and the sarong. Enjoy!
I bought a few expensive souveniers       
Slave Labor


for all my friends then returned to an Internet station in hopes of getting a room in David for
my first night before checking in to the Purple Hostel.


    I flew out of Panama City

to David the next morning.

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