PANAMA CITY TO DAVID…ON TO BOQUETE…BACK TO PANAMA…AND HOME

 The Air Panama flight had been delayed by almost 2
hours.  I arrived in David Airport around 8pm in the evening.  I talked to the taxi driver’s
because I needed someone that knew the hotels and what I was looking for.  I wanted a safe,
cheap, clean hotel.  
We went to three hotels and all were booked.  I just wanted to unpack and get something to
eat.  The Iris Hotel had a vacancy for $22 so I tipped the driver as he brought in my luggage
and moved in.

I heard music coming from the square across the street as I entered the Iris.  It sounded like
a chorus putting on an evening concert.  I grabbed my camera and went over to the square.
  It was piped in music that could be heard all over the downtown area.  They played some
instrumental and some choral but no hip hop.  Though it was Friday, the streets were quiet. 
It was raining a little when I turned to go back to the hotel and looked up to see a restaurant
on the second floor with a balcony.  
I found a seat on the balcony and ask for a Balboa Beer.
  She replied, “Only Old Milwaukee and Atlas.” .  Old Milwaukee!  I took the Atlas at $.70 then
after a couple beers I noticed people drinking Atlas out of Quart bottles for $1 so I switched so
as not to waste my money.
A large group of Frenchmen that just met each other were having dinner in the dining room.
  Joe, a world hippie traveler from Vancouver, B.C. asked to join me.  He had traveled to
Nicaragua, Morocco, Europe, Peru, etc.  His friend Jeffery,  a retired Merchant Marine from
Jacksonville Florida joined us also.  We had a nice conversation then they left and I retired to
my room.
I returned to the balcony restaurant to have breakfast in the morning, but wasn’t impressed
and left after coffee.  The town was bustling on a Saturday morning with the sidewalk sales
and traffic in reminded me of America in the late 50s .  People having ice cream sitting on the
park benches and catching up on all the gossip. Mother’s shopping with their children for
clothes or school supplies.
I walked around the block a few times before stopping in to the Pueblo Del Sol.  This was a
hotel the was recommended by Randy that I met at Fernando’s .  I read a review that ranked
it the best four star hotel in town for $32 a night but they never responded to my email request
for a room.  I ate breakfast there and was supposed to look up Bill Barker, a friend of Randy’s
that lived at the hotel.  There was a man on his computer sitting at one of the tables that I
suspected was Bill but I just wanted to relax and have my breakfast.  It was time to check out
and find my way to the Purple House Backpackers Hostel
where I was to stay until returning to Panama City next week.   
    When I arrived the manager and her old, old, dog Fluffy greeted me and showed me, the
kitchen, my shared bathroom, TV area, outdoor patio and my room. 
There was a notice on the door and one on the
bed : IMPORTANT SECURITY WARNING!
Do NOT leave valuables on your beds or near unattended windows or doors!
Bad guys stick long poles (up to 10 feet) inside the windows and doors and “fish” things off the
beds and sofas!  GUESTS HAVE LOST VALUABLES!!
Please take this warning seriously!  WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THEFT OR LOSS OF
ANY ITEMS.
    I better go shopping now while it’s daylight.  When I signed in I noticed others that came
today from the UK.  We will all meet tonight on the patio over a bottle of something.
I discovered I had no closet to hang my clothes and the prospect of staying in David was
becoming more unappealing so I told the manager that I had an emergency and had to cancel
my booking and leave the next day.
     I then got on the Internet and booked a room at the Hostal Nomba  Boguete.  She explained
I had to talk to the boss in order to do that.   I later met the boss, ANDREA the bitch from hell. 
She said I had a commitment for 8 days and now she can’t rent the room and until she does,
I have to pay for everyday she doesn’t rent.  I read my agreement that said I had to give a 24
hour notice to cancel but she responded that it was 72 hours in a confirmation letter she sent
me and each hostel has it’s own policy.
     I left to get some food and booze.  She stopped me again, as I was leaving, to inform me
that even though the hostel advertises 24 hour access, the security guard will not be on tonight
and if I return past 11:30, I will not be able to get in and DON’T ring the bell and wake her up! 
I assured her I would only be gone a short time and didn’t have any plans to go out that
evening.  When I returned from shopping,  I read the email she sent and agreed to pay for
3 days but then she informed me that I had to contact the booking agent “Hostel World” and
cancel so she could advertise the room .   I did and they said they would respond withing 72
hours.  She said I would have to pay if she didn’t rent the room.      I went out on the patio to
have a drink when a couple from Montreal showed.

Craig Blair from UK, ???, Tel Aviv, and Montreal leaving the Purple House Hostel
She worked as a ticket agent for a Canadian Airlines and he was a friend she invited to take a
two week getaway from the snow.  We were joined later by a couple from Portsmouth,
England and a man from Telaviv, Israel.  As the evening was getting closer to 11:30 and we
showed no signs of calling it a night, the Bitch from Hell came out and said she would make
an exception tonight ONLY and leave the gate unlocked.  Then we could leave and return
without disturbing her.
     We did and found our way to a little local bar to resume our travel talk
while sitting on the patio.
I went inside to buy a round of 6 beers for $3 and noticed the locals playing cards so joined
them.   
We playing 21 with each person taking turns being the dealer.  They go in a clockwise
direction like the water down the sink and as each person decides whether to take a hit or not,
the first person getting 21 wins unless another gets 21 and then the pot is split.
  I lost $6 before joining my friends.  We stopped on the way home at a street stand.  The
vendor sold fried bread and a variety of smoked meats.  The man next to me ordered one of
two or three items that all looked good so I told the vendor I wanted everything just like the
man ordered.  Instead, the vendor gave me one of everything he had.  My bag was $8 and
about 3 pounds worth of food.  I couldn’t ask him to take in back out of the bag so bought it
to share with everyone.  It was enough for 10 people so we found a car load of hungry locals
and offered some to them.  They eagerly accepted and we arrived home about 4:30 am and
was up and in the Taxi by Noon.
            I arrived at the bus station to board my yellow school bus 
for David.  We left in about 10 minutes and arrived in Boguete within the hour. 
I easily found the Nomba Hostel and met my beautiful Panamanian Hostess.  She showed me
to my private room which wasn’t much but cheaper than at the Purple House.  I had Internet
access, kitchen use, hot water, clean facilities, and easy access to Boquete.  I left to have a nice
Chicken Club sandwich at the Boquete Bistro and a $.35 Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream with
Almonds at Ana’s Sweets.  My Siesta took me back to warm summer days with a nice breeze
coming through the window and children playing outside.
    I went out to do a little shopping and returned to relax and catch up on my computer.
There was a Disco next door that started playing loud music at 2pm until around Midnight. 
That was a little distracting as most of the music sounded like the same thing over and over. 
I tuned it out and concentrated on Sudoku , reading and some games on my computer before
retiring
    Amigos Restaurant and Bar still served a good breakfast in the morning.  I brought the
computer and hooked into their free access to call Karen in Chicago.  It was Monday morning
and I think she was out to work.  I needed to call Mom to see if she received the taxes but it
was windy and music in the background.  I returned to the Hostel.
    My lovely Hostess said there was a Bookstore
across the street that served coffee and had open Internet access so I decided to investigate. 
The Book Store turned out to be quite nice.  It had a selection of New and Used books,
magazines and comfortable areas to plug in your laptop and connect to the Internet.  The
coffee was top notch too.
I bought “A Veiled Journey” by Shirley Palmer that was written prior to 9/11 and was about
the experience of a diplomat’s wife while stationed in Jeddah with her husband.  Very
interesting so far with good insights into Arabic culture and customs.  It was $3 .
    I want to do some hiking in Boguete and see some of the Museums so returned to drop off
my stuff and go explore. I ventured downhill for miles to visit a tourist center. Boquete is
strange when it comes to rain.  It is similar to Ireland’s “soft rain” in that it is like a fine mist.
It feels like the mister’s Arizona puts outside in the summer but it comes out of the sky.  I
didn’t realize the tourist center was off the beaten track and high up overlooking Boquete.  I
passed a Coffee Roasting Company
that served Breakfast, a Mexican Chocolateria, an Italian Restaurant and an Indian
Restaurant before I realized there was no more and no taxis out that far.  Now I had to climb
uphill to return.  I made it to Amigo’s and had a beer before returning to the Hostel. 
    When I arrived I saw Ryan my Host and he pulled up my bill for me.  He asked where I was
staying in Panama City on my return.  I said I had a room at the Acapulco and he told me he
had been burglarized while staying there.  The maid took his passport , wallet, money, Id’s
and Credit Cards out of the room.  The Owner denied any of his maids did so he took the
owner to court for not providing secure locks, surveillance or a guard to patrol the hotel. He
lost.   I have to go to the ATM again tomorrow but they haven’t credited my money transfer
yet and it’s been 6 days and two inquiries.  He directed me to the tourist place tomorrow so I
will put on my hiking shoes or take a cab. I think I’ll head for Zanzibar Blues bar and see if
they have any entertainment tonight.
Ngobe-Bugle
The Ngobe-Bugle (formerly Guaymí) are Panamas largest Indigenous group with
around 164,000 members. They inhabit the mountainous western provinces
of Chiriqui, Veraguas and Bocas del Toro.Although the Ngobe-Bugle have
recently had their territories recognized as a Comarca by the government they
continue to be threatened by outsiders.
               
        These are the Indians that live and work around Boquete.  Most work on the Coffee
Plantations or making crafts to sell.


The Emberá, with an estimated population of 20,000, inhabit the Darien rain
forest of Panama.  This tribe along with the Wounaan were formerly known as
the Choco because they migrated from the Choco province of Colombia in the
late 18Th century.  Both the Emberá and the Wounaan have a similar river
basin culture.

The Wounaan people number about 20,000 and also live in the Darien
rain forest.  In 1983 the
government of Panama recognized the Comarca Emberá-Drua, a
semi-autonomous Indigenous
territory for both tribes.  his territory overlaps the Darien National Park and
Biosphere Reserve.

These two tribes inhabit the Province that connects Panama to Colombia…Darien.  Darien is

also occupied by the FARC or Revolutionary forces of Colombia.  They take foreigners that
enter into Darien hostage and use the rain forest as a hideout and protection from the
Colombian Army.  Recently they have been threatening the villagers if Panama Army doesn’t
leave them alone.  Panama has been stepping up efforts to rout them from Panama under
pressure from the U.S. , Colombia and other Central American country’s.  They are presently
holding 3 American researchers hostage and our government can do little to help them.
The Kuna (Dule) have a population of around 47,000 members.  They migrated
from the Darien region of Panama to the San Blas Islands on the Atlantic coast
in the mid nineteenth century.  In 1938, after a long struggle,  the Comarca of
San Blas (Kuna Yala), a semi-autonomous territory, was recognized by the
Panamanian government.
The Kuna’s are the Indian tribe I hoped to visit while on San Blas.  The San Blas trip never
happened and neither did my visit.


        I decided to stay home until I find out what is going on with the bank and my money.  I
went out on the patio to play Sudoku and Ryan started asking me why I was here…business or
pleasure, etc.  I told him I didn’t like Phoenix in the winter and he found that hard to believe
since he has a Phoenix driver’s license.  His parents and relatives live in Mesa and
surrounding area.  He went to school in Boulder, Colorado and has a tour business in addition
to the other Hostel in Panama City.  
    Ryan drove out here and still has Arizona plates.  He had to drive through 7 countries and
his biggest problem was in Honduras.  Lonnie, even though he punched a Costa Rica Border
Police, still says his worst crossing was Honduras also.
    On the way back to the room, everyone was watching Shrek Goes to China and invited me
but no, I choose to spend my time informing my friends of my travels.  I could be watching
Shrek Goes to China!  I think I will. Oops…movie is over…so I go into the lounge area and
meet a couple from Milwaukee drinking Red Dog Beer.  They invite me to share and we talk
about travels.  They just returned from 5 weeks in Colombia and traveled to every major city
and never had a problem.  The people were so friendly and they enjoyed to entire trip without
any mishaps.  They travel a lot and had been to South East Asia and enjoyed that. They only
travel to 3rd world countries because that is all they can afford. We decided to try and visit
the Zanzibar but the streets were empty and everything was closed so we had a nice walk and
a view of the night stars in the mountains.  They invited me to join the hot springs party
tomorrow night.  We go up in the mountains in the evening to enjoy the stars at night away
from the city.  $15
        I walked to the Panamanian Roasting Company for a great breakfast
and hope to eat there every morning.  I stopped at the ATM and used my other card.  Both of
my accounts are dangerously low.  The one transfer won’t go through until day after
tomorrow.  That is when my other card expires.  I know they have issued me a new card but it
is in Phoenix not here.  Oh well, we have a Texas Holdem game tonight at the Hostel so
maybe I’ll get lucky.  I signed up after I returned and paid for the week.
         I was trying to call Mom and went to the Book Store thinking it would be quiet and out
of the way but they were closed.  I sat out on out porch thinking I would get a better signal
from them and still be able to call.  While I was fiddling with my headphones and trying to
hook up the phone, a couple strolled up to the Hostel.  They were inquiring about the Hostel
and the tours they offer but I couldn’t hear them with the traffic, etc.  The guy came up to me
and very slowly said “Si Habla Ingles?”  I said sometimes.  Then I explained I was only a guest
and he had to ring the bell. 
    My Magic Jack works great but you have to have a broadband connection and this wasn’t
one.  I did get a hold of Bill and he was going to call Mom but I told him he kept breaking up
and I wasn’t sure I could keep the connection.  He seemed to understand me perfectly.  I hung
up and went over to Mail Box Etc to call on Magic Jack over their Cable broadband.
    I had no problem and she had received everything and didn’t seem to mind she had to pay
over $9000 in taxes and $1000 in Penalties.  Her exemption for Real Estate will be taken
back this year and that could cost another $8000.   Now I know she is getting Alzheimer’s.
    I signed up for the Texas Holdem tournament and after returning to the Hostel I saw Craig
from Portsmouth , England that I played 21 with the night before in David.  I practiced some
Holdem with him and he joined me that evening for the tournament.

Craig, Myself, Chicago, Belize, Philly and Phoenix Ryan
  

The Winners
    9pm approched and we had a game with a young man from Chicago, another from Philly
that owned a Hostel in Boquete, a lady from Belize that won, and my friend Craig from
Portsmouth and the owner Ryan from Phoenix.  While we were there a retired American
History teacher from Denver showed up with 3  ladies from North Carolina.He turned out to
be a SERVAS Host and Traveler. They were on there way to San Jose , Costa Rica where the
man from Denver just came from.


        The next day I hired a taxi to take me out to Ceffati, a tourist center.  The view of Boquete
from there is
breathtaking. The Center sits on an overlook with the town down below in the valley.  The
river runs through the town and winds past the center.  My driver, Tommy, took me further
down the road and across the Wilson Bridge but explained any further and the road turns to
dirt and is very rough.  I had people tell me that you need a heavy duty 4 wheel drive with lots
of torqe and clearance to negotiate the back roads.  I let him take me where he wanted to and
we spent the next hour driving up and around then back down another mountain

The real Juan Valdez
on the other side of town.  It was truely spectacular.
There are some really beautiful homes around this city.  You get the feel of why this is one of
the top 10 retirement destinations in the world.      


        When I returned the three ladies from North Carolina were there.  I had directed them to
the Peruvian Restaurant and they thanked me for the recommendation.  They really enjoyed
it.  Two of them were Irish and sisters.  The other was going to San Jose to have cosmetic
dental surgery with a Costa Rican doctor that graduated from Baylor University in the US. 
One of the sisters, Sally Wade ,travels all over the world and is a travel writer.  She is in her
late 60´s and very active traveler.  She just returned from Cambodia and Laos.  Last year she
went all over South America and to the Artic Circle. She is also a CouchSurfer like me. Her
worst trip was in Sri Lanka when rebel Tamil stopped them in a road block, shot out their
tires, had them all down on the ground but let them go after robbing them. The other sister
never travels and this was her first trip out of the US.   She worked giving Care Takers a
break from caring for hospice patients.     
        I left to catch Happy Hour at Amigos. 

David from Atlanta,Myself Frank from Miami, Panamanian couple.
Judy was there. She was a lady I met on my last trip in and I’ve seen her at Amigos before. 
This time I introduced my self to everyone at he table and join them.  There was Frank from
Miami.  He was originally from the Bronx and lost an eye after 6 months in Vietnam as a
Marine. He came to Panama to help Panama Bill open and start his restaurant.  It was the
Original Panama Bill not the one from Newburyport that I met in Boca Del Toro last month
There was a retired school administrator from Chicago then Denver, Colorado named Janie.
  We had a nice with Mark the owner of Amigos .  A young Panamanian couple joined us.  She
was a real attractive girl with a beautiful smile and personality to match.  I went inside to play
pool and easily took the table until the girl challenged me.  She beat me hands down
so I went to the other table and played 9 ball with a couple of guys from Spokane, Washington.
  I then returned to my Hostal by myself.

 Three Dutchmen from Nimajken, Holland showed up, another from Oslo, Norway and

Craig was there with a Panamanian he met from Boquette that I think was in love with him. 
We all went back to Amigos to have a bite to eat then retired for the evening.        


    The next morning it was a lazy day.  I caught up on some reading and went to bed early.
    Today I hiked down to the Panamanian Roasting Company
and had a big breakfast then returned to check my emails.  I then got a Taxi to Paradise
Gardens. 
This is an animal sanctuary that Craig did some volunteer work at last month. 
A gentleman from Vancouver works there with his wife 8 months of the year then 4 months
back in British Columbia. 
He gave me a tour and introduced me to all the animals and birds. 
The grounds were beautiful and they even had a Butterfly farm. 
The owners are from England.


    On the return trip I stopped at Strawberry Marys
for fresh strawberries and cream
then caught a shuttle bus to the Center for $.50.


    Ryan promised to check with the shuttle service today to make sure I have a reservation for
Sunday morning.  I signed up for Buffalo Wing Dig he is putting on tonight for $4.
Friday I stopped at Amigo’s to join the expats for Happy Hour then returned to the Hostel. 
There were some new guests and we were talking about Panama Red and how the Drug Dogs
at the airport check everything.  I was saying how careful you have to be here when this young
lady, Valerie
, pulled out some Pot and loaded up a Coke Can pipe and passed it to me.  We
were all shared a little when Ryan came in and told us we had to take it outside
because he could get in trouble at the Hostel .   He wasn’t upset or anything and
neither were we.  It was getting pretty late at the Hostel Nomba Bar so Ryan
suggested we all go out
for the evening.  Well the evening was after midnight but we did.  Back to the
Amigo with about 6 of us so I bought a bucket of 6 beers for $5 and on the way
out to the table I missed a step and went down with the beer and all.  I broke
one bottle but Mark replaced it and apologized.  It appears it has happened more
than one on the same step.      
    We finished our beer and it was after 1am when we started back, I thought. 
Ryan had another Panamanian Disco Bar
in mind so we ended up there, after stopping at the Zanzibar.   I danced a little.
Valerie, the young girl I met at the Hostel , and I challenged the pool table.  We
won one and lost won and made a lot of nice friends.  The bar closed sometime
after 2:30 when we left with out drinks in hand.  The bars here give you the drink
in a plastic cup to take home.   We walked back and I crashed. 
    This morning and my last day, I went to the Papa Rico’s for lunch instead of
breakfast.  I ate there before on someone’s recommendation but the lasagna was
not real hot and I wasn’t impressed but decided to give it a second chance.  This
time I had the Chicken Parmesan and Rico came over to tell me how good it was
but I think it was more breading the Chicken.  He did make a great sauce but I
was still disappointed but left with a bigger belly.  I think I am gaining back than
1/8  of an inch I lost off my waist. 
    I shopped for some expensive souvenirs then returned to check my email at
the Book Store.  It appears when I leave for holiday everyone forgets about me.  
I had no email except Emergency weather reports about windstorms in Arizona.
    I had to stop over at my Juice Bar for a fresh Pineapple  drink to refresh me.  I
packed and read with a promise to bed down early tonight but Craig just stopped
by my room and invited me to join them for Jazz night at the Zanzibar. 
I’m off. The young man from Norway and a nice Panamanian lady joined us. 
Craig was telling me about his new 3 week job at Paradise Gardens.  He works
as a tour guide as helps take care of the animals.  The owner’s daughter told him
about a tourist that was in the enclosure with the monkeys and one got up on his
shoulder for a photo opportunity and started  screwing his ear.  He was posing
and thought the monkey had his finger in his ear.  It was tickling him and he was
laughing but everyone else was laughing for a different reason.
    Tonight is pay day and on Saturday all the Indians are back in town drinking
at the bars and catching up on the local gossip while their women
sit outside with the children and patiently wait for them.  Craig told me they also
have bare fisted fights for the right to their women.  They are held in a local
building and get pretty brutal.  The gringos come to watch and so did Craig.
    We arrived at the Zanzibar to hear the three piece Jazz band.  A Sax, Bass
guitar and drums.  They were actually quite good for Panamanians.  Frank and
Bill were there that I met at Amigos Happy Hour and after a beer I bid all good
night.  Tomorrow I have to get up to catch the shuttle to David and Air Panama
to Panama City.  We had hoped Valerie was going to join us.  She went to the Hot
Springs with a group. 
    When I got back into the Hostel Ryan had been back from the Hot Springs but
had to pick up Valerie at the Hospital.  She was bit by a Scorpion at the Hot
Springs and should be home shortly.  While I was working on my computer,
trying to improve my win average in hearts, Valerie returned her arm , neck,
and face swollen by the venom.  She was a little buzzed on pain killers and said
it had been hard to breath until the swelling receded.  We bid goodbye and I
went to bed but had a restless night.
    I was afraid of oversleeping the alarm because of my hearing, so kept waking
then falling back to sleep.  The alarm was set for 7am and my ride was arriving
at 7:45am.  I finally woke at 6:45 and dozed back off but when I awakened to the
alarm, it had been ringing almost ½ hr.  I had 15 minutes so jumped into the
shower, packed the computer and was at the front porch on time but no shuttle. 
I saw a transfer bus coming but he drove right past.  It was almost 8am and I
was panicking so decided to walk the short distance to the ticket office.  I walked
at a good pace and when I walked in to demand my ride, the wind had my hair
standing straight up like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket.  I’m being
serious and she is laughing.  After I realized what she was laughing at, the
situation wasn’t all that serious.  She explained the bus was there now and she
called him to stop at the office.  I was ready for the restroom after all that stress
so took advantage of the short wait when I discovered…no toilet paper. 
Fortunately that is one thing I am good about…carrying some toilet paper in my
back pocket just in case.
    I had the whole bus to myself.  It was rather nice because you are sitting up
higher than a car and get a better view of the beautiful countryside and homes.   
    The flight went well but the taxis here always say they know where the address
you give them is located until they get there and can’t find it.  Ryan told me to
just give them this dinky map that I could barely read and the taxi would know. 
I did, he didn’t.  I did ask Ryan to point it out on my map of Panama City and
after going around in a circle twice, I recognized one of the rare street signs and
BINGO we found it. 
Now the driver wants more money, of course, so I pay him and say goodbye. 
     This is one of 50 high rise condos in the Marbella area.  I had walked there
before so had a little idea of it but never remember seeing any nightclubs or
restaurants except Burger King.  Security took me through the gate and buzzed
the Hostel to make sure they were expecting me.  I took the elevator to the
Hostel and was greeted by a nice lady that took me to the reservation desk. 
This was very spacious and nice.  Then I noticed it was warm and though there
was an air conditioner, it wasn’t on and of course all the lights were dim.  The
lady explained that she was part time so called the manager who informed me
that I did NOT have a private room the first night because it was rented.  I said
goodbye and left for the Acapulco, feeling good that I never cancelled the
reservation. After a short taxi ride I was in my nice air conditioned clean room. 


            I met up with Loney from Idaho that evening at Fernando’s.  He is the type of person
you can depend on.  We shared a few pictures of beer before he left. Then Jim from San
Francisco and Mike showed up.  I wanted to bed down early because of my lack of sleep and
my next day was my last in Panama.  Never happened.  Billy showed up and we all were
drinking pitcher of beer when I decided to go up to my room.  I arrived and it was only 10pm
so I decided to rejoin the group.  2:30 in the morning I finally found my way back to the room.

     9.am the maid woke me to clean my room when I still thought it was 3:30 in the morning. 
I didn’t get up till around 11am and headed down to the restaurant for fresh Juice and coffee.
  After 10 minutes a waitress finally came over for my order and I had not even had a menu.  I
requested the menu when she realized I was still sitting in front of the last person’s trash.  She
then cleaned my space and presented me with the menu.  I asked for a coffee and she
responded that she was not my waitress.  I waited another 10 minutes for my waitress and
requested a  coffee.  She started to make it when another ordered some milkshakes and she
started doing that while I was still perusing the menu.  I decided to have the lunch Corvina
fillet special but she never returned.  She was in the kitchen picking up an order and I was
dying for a coffee.  I finally left and went down the street to the old hotel restaurant I had
stayed at.  The owner came right over and gave me my coffee and took my order.  He passed
it to the waitress and within five minutes I had my fresh Corvina , Macaroni Salad, Rice and
Lentils with Lemon for my fish. I paid the bill….$3.75 for one of the best meals I had in
Panama…with a smile on both our parts.
    I got some money from the ATM and headed for the Old City to buy some souvenirs.  A lot
of the shops were closed because it was either Monday or because it was Siesta time and after
2 pm .   I was confused and dizzy.  There was so much there and nothing had a price tag.  If
you wanted to know the price you had to get an attendant to serve you and then they would
hang on to you the entire time.   I was frazzled and hate shopping to begin with.  Outside I
could go to the Kiosk and bargain with the Indians but here I had to dismiss the attendant
and then recall them ever time I wanted to know the price of a hat, a blouse , the size of
something, the price of a basket…I finally left in chaos.
    I found a taxi and asked if he could pick me up in the morning at the hotel. He wanted $20
and I told him the last taxi I took to the airport was $10.  He started complaining that he had
to pay bribes and tolls to get into the airport so I just thanked him and said no.  Later he said
he would pick me up at 6 am for the $20.  I said sleep another 15 minutes and pick me up at
6:15 and I would give him $15 so he could sleep longer.  He still refused so I agreed to the
$20.  It is nice to have that cab waiting for you at that hour when you can’t miss a discounted
flight.
    I returned to the room disappointed over my accomplishments that afternoon.  I never did
buy the gifts I wanted but really didn’t care at that point.  I went over to see Loney at
Ferdinando’s but he hadn’t arrived.  Mike showed for a short time then Loney arrived and
agreed to meet me in Vietnam next winter.  We exchanged emails and then Billy, Jim and
Mike returned.  A man from New Zealand that Loney knew for the last 5 years arrived.  He had
traveled all over Colombia and had married a Brazilian from Rio that he lived with for 5 years
before divorcing her and coming to Panama.  I said goodbye to all and returned to my hotel to
set up a wake up call for 5:45 am and get some sleep .  I arrived and started giving orders to t
he desk clerk when ALL the power went out.  They turned on the generators but no phone or
lights in the lobby.  I went to my room and retired hoping my alarm would awaken me?
    5:45 a knock came on the door.  I thought that was more personal service than a phone call
with a recorded voice on the other end.   I was downstairs and out the door by 6am.  I hoped
Louis would be a little early.  The other Taxis tried to entice me into their cab and though I
thought about it, there was something about Louis’s sincerity and genuine friendliness that
made me wait.  If he wasn’t there by 6:15 am, the appointed time, I would take another.  I went
in the restaurant and had a nice glass of fresh Orange Juice and a coffee to go.  When I came
back out Louis was there to greet me with a big smile , the taxi door open, and a warm
welcoming “How are you doing this morning, David?”  I noted his taxi was always shining
inside and out.  He took pride in what he did and one of the few taxis that carried a fire
extinguisher.  His hair was in place, shoes shined, and mustache trimmed.  He smiled the
entire ride , all the while trying to practice his English with me.  If he said something I didn’t
understand, he waited until he reached a stop and would pull out his dictionary and say it
again or show me.  He had 3 sons and was a very proud father.  
    When we arrived it wasn’t even 7am yet so I got in the American Airlines check in with only
5 or 6 customers in front of me.  We filled out all out declarations in line and I checked my bag
and got my boarding pass.  I will have to claim my bag and go through customs in Miami…not
Phoenix.  That should give me something to do during my 4 hour layover.
    I jumped into the security line on the way to the gate.  There were only two machines open to
screen the passengers and they took there time.  One person at a time, not like the constant
moving line in other places.  The person in front of me stepped over the line, which was 20 feet
from the screener and a security lady came over and made him step back.  After we went
through that we had to check through immigration with our exit forms then we were free for 2
hours.  I went right by all the Tommy Hilfiger, Chivas Regal, Lacosta, Sony, etc Duty free
stores ..I swear almost 100 of them before I found a bathroom to freshen up.  All three hand
towel machines were empty with no air dryer.  People spending all that money in Duty Free
and can’t wash their hands.

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