Sunday, April 3, 2011

Panama: 1985

Bridge of the Americas

The long taxi ride from the airport reminded me of my grandma Rose...the country flying past my window had the look of the same country flying past my window as a child, when we were approaching grandma's home in Fresno. First trip out of the states, and I was on my great adventure, quite alone. I would be meeting up with a colleague I worked with flying in the next day from Colorado Springs, and a mystery person joining us from San Francisco.  I left behind a handsome flute player boyfriend to await my return. 

Panama City at low tide

WOW!!!  The hotel in the center of the city was windows or doors in the lobby...just wide open space, and all the sounds of nature and the city were right there assaulting my senses.  I had never been to the tropics before, to that land of only two seasons...wet...dry...that's it!  Unbelievable that, out of all the offices of US civil service peons at that army base, I was asked if I wished to fly to Panama City to help an army post catch up on their backlog of work.

I settled into my boring blah room for the two months I was to be there, and met up with my colleague the next morning.  She was higher up the career ladder than I, and was given the responsibility of obtaining the rental car; and mostly keeping it for herself.

The civilian bosses' Panamanian wife took us under her wing, and introduced us to the four military bases and their gluttony of shops on our first weekend.  Upon our exit from the last base, we were stopped by an armed group of Panama military, and ordered to get out of the car.  Our hostess argued with them for what seemed like forever, before they finally let us drive off.  All desire for me to venture out on my own was poofed right out of my brain after that short encounter.

Next weekend on a trip halfway across the isthmus through the darkest jungle I could ever have imagined, with a thousand humongous pot holes leaping at us left and right trying to swallow up our rental car with us in it, I snapped the last photos of my colleague I would include with my trip journal forever and ever more.

My colleague decided covertly to spend her advancement dollars she received for her room, board, and rental car towards her son's college expenses; and after week two, she informed me that I would have to find another ride to work for the remainder of my time there.  All her money was gone, and she had returned the rental car.  She had already set up a ride for herself and a work friend to live with; so I was left scrambling to come up with alternative transportation, as none of my co-workers lived downtown, and I had little desire to be a prisoner of that hotel for the rest of my stay.  I did manage to secure a surprisingly nice cheap rental car of my own, and probably still looking young and not ugly worked a bit in my favor.  That was the last time I ever saw my co-worker in Panama or the states for that matter.

Panama economy had two price ranges for housing, groceries, and dry goods...if you looked local it was cheap, if you looked US it was expensive...simple and effective.  Panama was in transition...the US had begun to hand over chunks of their holdings, and those lands and what they contained were mostly ugly eye sores, as the US did upkeep, Panama did not.  

Old Catholic Church Ruins in City

I began to pal around with my San Francisco mystery buddy...a rather nice quiet gentleman who's preference leaned towards men, so all the trips and tours we booked for ourselves were quite affordable as we just roomed together on the overnighters.

Touristy downtown Panama was beautiful! The tropic gardens on the roof of the Hilton Hotel were lush, and even had their own frog population that sang out in the early evenings. I upgraded my hotel room to twice as large with a no extra charge!!! I think it had something more to do with the already generous funds they were getting from me and my employer, the US.

Television was in Panamanian, Japanese animate was the rage then and on several channels; so that and the Latino singing artist channel were my entertainment when alone. Outdoor seating was our preference when trying out all the downtown restaurants.

Government elections were in progress when we first arrived, and it was a sight to view from my balcony the distant fires from vehicles being overturned and burned.  Panamanians later told me this was common fare during election years.  Pity the poor souls who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time...although the instigators were always kind enough to drag them, arms and legs flailing, from their cars prior to overturning and torching.

Statues and Parks along Balboa Avenue

Balboa Statue

My San Fran buddy and I hiked all over the neighborhoods...only two classes...poor and the neighborhoods were grand.  Found a little ice cream store and marveled at how all the colors were extremely pale with pale flavors to match.  Hiked to the ocean on Balboa Avenue with its parks and grand statues, and took in all that bounty of lushness.

Rain showers almost daily - one, sometimes two; a half hour of deluge, and a half hour later no trace of rain water on anything thanks to all that heat and humidity; although soft breezes made it somewhat more bearable. 

Ooops!  Almost forgot the reason I was in this paradise...WORK.  Taboo sexual harassment in the states is a way of life in the tropics.  The suggestions and noisome behavior from my male co-workers - ugly, ok, and handsome looking -  was tiring after a few days.

I was on an American Army base, in an office of 100% Panamanians...I was the token one in this environment.  Treated well, I was learning new words and phrases of the language every day, and that tickled everyone pinkie pink, and made me an office favorite.

My co-workers had just one work speed...very very very very very was excruciating!  I finished my eight hour workload in two hours.  I slowed down and finished my eight hour workload in three hours.  I slowed down even more...just short of being dead, and still could not make my workload reach beyond lunch.

And those bloody air conditioners...I can recite all the info on hypothermia thanks to nearly freezing to death in the office one day.  After work I stood outside forever soaking up all that glorious HEAT, and by the time I reached my hotel room, I was shaking uncontrollably.  I had to climb into bed with the covers doubled up to seek welcomed relief.  I was always bundled toasty warm on workdays after that incident.

Sound like a magical place?  It was, kind of; but there also appeared on the horizon a bit darker downside attached to all of this.  To be continued...

Panama Canal

A little bit of me in a footnote -

I hesitate to write these footnotes at all, but sometimes I need to connect personally with my audience.  Preview on my drafts hasn't worked forever, and I find myself tweaking my posts like crazy after they are published.  I've lost comments that way when I give up and have to put the dang thing back into draft mode...I always seem to have someone who instantly knows I've posted and rushes to view the results no matter what crazy hour I post.

I first published this post last night, and almost immediately lost a follower who had joined just one post ago.  Wow!  No one can know how disapproval stings until it happens personally to you.  Putting my post back into draft mode, I looked at it under a rose colored magnifying glass,  took out the one cuss word I used several times, and changed a few other sentences people might judge me on negatively, and this is the final result.

I hate censoring myself on my own blog to avoid negative judgements, but after much thought, I think all seasoned artist just automatically do this if they want an accepting audience.  Wildlife gardening, cats and dogs, everyday now time, and my past are the facets that make up my complicated blog.  I have past posts that I think if I were to publish them now might loose me a follower or two.  Most who join in reading all I post, only know one or two of those facets about me, unless they have read my entire blog before joining.

My problem is when I write about my past...I find myself censoring too much.  My life wasn't always sunshine and lollipops, but too much negative stuff is well, just too much negative stuff.  While I don't want my life to be fiction on my blog, you do sometimes get a watered down version of who I truly am or used to be.  I accept that, because you all are very dear to me, and I want to keep you in my blog life.  A phrase my Panama friends taught me, and I used much - mas o menos - more or less - that's life.


  1. those ancient ruins are beautiful!

  2. Clipped - blogging is therapeutic, bring it however you want to girl.

  3. Wow, what an adventure you were thrown into. I have some coice words for your co-worker who left you stranded!!
    But what beauty is there. So glad you were able to buddy up with the SF guy.
    I find myself censoring some things in blogland too.
    I have so much to say about whats going on in my life right now, but you never know who is redaing your blog.
    Your post was captivating to me. Can't wait for more.

  4. What an adventure! Your co-worker abandoning you didn't feel good, but you certainly recovered well. I look forward to the rest of the story.

    As far as self censorship goes... if a few words cause a follower to unfollow, then you probably are going to have a tough time keeping them anyway. I hate to lose followers too, but it happens. Always a push/pull, isn't it?

    Nice post!

  5. I visited Panama once for a night on our way from Chile to back home. We stayed at a very nice hotel but had to leave at 10 the next morning. I would have loved to have spent more time there. Your pictures convince me that it would have been worth the stay.

  6. great blog...thanks for the visit...I am a new follower!

  7. Best Blog ever, Clipped Wings! Never censor anything for me! I don't even edit my blogs, they are what they are. I am trying to get a timeline to this? What is the date of this story? You become more interesting with every post!

  8. Hmmm . . . VERY interesting. Don't know a THING about Panama .. . sounds like you've had an interesting adventure in life.

    Stuff it . . . I agree with Stonepost's comment above about not censoring etc. Be who you are . . . cuz you sound really interesting.

    Hugs, Sandra


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...