Whether you are heading north or south a change in the weather from the snowy USA or tropical Panama can really turn your world upside down. Luxury travel experts believe that extreme weather changes are some of the things that people on a family travel adventure often fail to prepare for. Through our single parent travel, we have seen how important it is to plan for such changes.
The Snowy USA
We Are Late
Oh no – where is our wake-up call? There is nothing and no one is answering the phone either at the reception.
I, therefore, dash down to the reception area and find the staff hanging out in the kitchen, and the bus to the airport is gone! There is no breakfast pack ready as promised. This is why we paid more than we usually would to stay near the airport and this hotel has let us down.
Needless to say, we will not be recommending this hotel as we are left out of pocket to fix their mistake.
I do a quick attitude check and organize the hotel to pay for a taxi to take us to Chicago airport. The reception guy hustles up a couple of breakfast packs. On arrival at the airport, we somehow manage to move a few items from luggage to backpacks and we hit the 23 kg limit each. This is an achievement but I fail to understand why we bother since it is all going on the plane anyway! The man behind me in the line weighs probably triple my weight but he gets the same allowance. Really the whole weight thing needs an overhaul in my opinion.
I have also packed summer clothes for changing into on the plane so we move these into the backpack and head to the restrooms to change.
Since it is 6:00 am the airport is empty as we say goodbye to Snowy USA. Duty-Free is shut and there is nothing to do which is a shame as I wanted to buy a duty-free iPad for Explorason. We get through security and customs promptly. So I decide we need to get some energy out and this is when we decide to have trolley races.
This seems like a good idea until I pull a muscle in my leg as I am scooting along. I have got to remember I am 50 years old!! But we have so much fun.
Flight to tropical Panama
The flight is pretty good as we soar above the clouds on this beautiful day. We pull out the laptop and take out the first Spanish lesson and Explorason gets right into it. This was a great Christmas gift from our friends in LA.
The rest of the plane is full – a great group of med-students going off to do volunteer work in Peru.
Staying At A Misson
We have arranged to stay at a mission base 3/4 hour out of Panama City. I need to get a handle on language barriers, safety, and culture first. I figure out that this is a good way to gradually ease into it.
The mission staff arrives in a black Nissan X-Trail – amazingly the exact same car I had in Australia.
But alas – their radiator explodes right as they arrive out the front of the terminal. So we wait for a tow truck and they organize a tiny car rental.
We squeeze our luggage in the tiny car and head off into the outer suburbs or is it the country area – I’m not sure at this stage.
I am so sweaty and hot but this is tropical Panama. I feel wet all over reminding me of when I fell in the snowy USA. But wait. I am wet all over my bottom and it feels disgusting. We have folding water bottles and I have sat on one and it has exploded all over the back of my pants. I look like I have wet myself and I am really embarrassed! I sit in this for 1/2 hour – gross, while we follow the tow truck to the depot and sort their vehicle problems out.
The staff then take us to the supermarket and we spy Panama everywhere we look – even on the empty shelves. I need toiletries as we left ours behind in the USA to save luggage weight. Oh no, they are all in Spanish.
I finally find 2 ladies to help me translate. I need the right haircare – ‘this could be dangerous’ I laugh to myself.
I hide my son behind me as I walk in my wet pants. I ask for the Baños (means bath but is always the lavatories) and I quickly learn that toilet paper can’t go into the toilets. You stare at an open basket of used paper – oh gross!
But the rest of Panama doesn’t seem so poor. We drive along the Panama Canal. Then through the National Park aka jungle, and we arrive in their hilly mission site in Chilibre.
We are fortunate to have a private room. Several bedrooms share the lounge and bathroom, but no-one is staying there in this building so it is lovely and peaceful.
Dinner and new friends
Tonight we enjoy a great dinner and my son quickly makes a new friend. I meet the lovely people on the base – 2 girls from Germany, and a family from Costa Rica and a few others.
It is so hot and our thoughts trail back to the snowy USA – we are so pleased to have a little air-conditioner in our room. We also only have cold water showers and I think that is no big deal. But as I jump in I am wrong! It is a very quick and refreshing shower! We aim to sleep so we at least feel cool now.
Positives and Negatives
But there seems to be a seal barking??? No, it is a dog with a very bad barking problem and he is joined by the rooster. So that is a bit of a challenge but on the positive side, there are virtually no mosquitoes.
I wonder what life will hold for us in this country?
I believe this mission base has since moved on so please do not message me about staying here, thanks.