Friday, September 11, 2015

Panama 2015

 Thunderstorm rolling into Panama City as seen from atop Cerro Ancon

Part of my rather "Trip Filled" year, was a visit to Panama back in September.  

I had asked Sandi, almost a year ago, if she wanted to take a trip to Panama.  Her Mother is native to Panama and met her Father while he was serving there while in the U.S Army.  She has always balked at the idea of going back...perhaps because it had been so long since she had left there.
Sandi left Panama when she was 11 years old and had not been back since.  I have always wanted us to connect with her family there, as Sandi's Mom is the only one (of her siblings) that left to live in the U.S.  

On a night when she was in an especially receptive mood, I asked her about taking our vacation there this year.  When she agreed that it "might" be fun to do so, I got on Expedia, checked out Hotel Reviews, discovered i could get a great price on airfare and booked the trip!  The next morning she was more than a bit surprised when I told her I had locked us in for Panama.  She told me, "I didn't know you were going to go book it!  Yep, I did.

Long story shot, she connected with a couple cousins via Facebook and let them know we were coming.  One of those cousins, Amett, would faithfully message Sandi and stayed in touch for the months leading up to our visit.  He and another cousin of Sandi's, Malvira, would prove to be wonderful friends (and cousins!) and would make our trip incredibly memorable.

I will not attempt to condense the experience of this trip into a blog post.  There was simply too much in the way of experiences, sights, and family connections to explain and properly write about.
I will say this.  In over 20 years of marriage, I have never seen Sandi smile as much or as big...and have never seen her moved so deeply, as I did during this trip to Panama.  She was able to retrace her beloved "Mama's" steps both figuratively and literally.  She walked through "Mi Pueblito", her Mother's favorite place to visit every time she went back to Panama.  She saw and re-connected with Cousins and Aunts and Family that welcomed her as their though she had never left.  She smelled the jungle, enjoyed the food and re-discovered the sights and sounds of Panama...the Panama that for the most part, had not changed much (outside of Panama City) since she had left.  She visited her Great Grandmother's house where she played as a little girl and chased chickens...and there are still chickens there!  She put her hands on her Mama's hand prints still preserved in the cement floor of a house built by her Parents, that sadly, no longer remains in the family.  These were special moments and often, very emotional experiences.  I think she had forgotten how "Panamanian" she is.  

It was the first time I can remember, that Sandi was not ready to come home at the end of a trip.

Rather than even attempt to tell the story, I will select a few special photos and caption them.  It will provide a glimpse into our experience in Panama. 

I went through approximately 900 photos taken between the two of us, edited a ton of them and put together a 109 page Photo Book from Shutterfly, so that Sandi would always have a chronicle of the trip.  I will post a pic here of the prologue contained in the book as well as the cover "quote".  A picture (or several) is worth a thousand words...and saves me ALOT of writing in this case!

Front Cover of the Photo Book

Prologue in the Photo Book

Leaving Miami, heading to Panama

Arrival at the Airport in Panama!  Sandi and Malvira.  Two peas in a pod!

 Sandi and Amett

 Outside the Food Stand where we ate our first meal upon arriving in Panama City

Waterfront. Panama City

Church In Casco Viejo

Cousins and fast friends, Malvira, Sandi and Amett

 We visited Many Old Churches In The Old Part Of Town

Old Town vs New Panama City

Plaza Francia

Tablet describing the idea of a Canal through Panama by the French (Plaza Francia)

Graffitti In Casco Viejo

  Closeup of Casco Viejo, from atop Cerro Ancon

Nighttime, Casco Viejo

The "Metro"

School Kids In Uniform

Malvira and Sandi, Late Night Talk

 Portobello, Panama   Cannons defended the Port from Pirates seeking gold in the 1700's

School girls in Portobello, Panama

Portobello...just over the Old Forts' Walls.  My favorite photo of the trip.

 Portobello "convenience store"!

Portobello Store (larger view)

Sandi with some Portobello students

Colon, Panama

 Ghetto, Panama City

Sandi in the Hotel Lobby

Albrook Mall

Albrook Mall

Sandi and Amett, Trump Tower, Panama City

House that Sandi's Parents (and Malvira) Built in Penenome, Panama

Penenome, Panama

Mama's hand prints and Name (Evida) in the cement

Family in Penenome!  Pablo, Joyce, Malvira, Jaja and Sandi

Night View from our Hotel. Downtown Panama City

 Our hotel room

 Panama Canal

Panama Canal

Panama Canal

 Best cake I have ever eaten.  (I had 4 pieces)

 Jungle near Gamboa, Panama

 Men's Room, Hard Rock Hotel, Panama City

 Old Tower at the ruins of Panama Viejo, a medieval town of sorts

Another view from the tower looking down at what would have been a small village

Saying goodbye to Panama 

I will try to update the captions and organize these pictures a bit better, until then these will give you an abbreviated visual of our trip!

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