Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 10 – Panama City

Driving back from El Valle yesterday we both felt a little melancholy! Our holiday research trip is over and it felt as if we were leaving “home” and good friends!

Today it is all about tying up loose ends in Panama City and getting ready for our flight back to Orlando. We learned from the attorney that a member of his staff would pick up our passports at Immigration and we should be at the office at noon. Immigration had had our passports since last week so that they could be stamped with a 90-day, multiple-entry visa. The visas would have to be renewed until our Pensionado visas are issued (which could take 3 – 10 months!)

First of all, we had to return the rent car to the Thrifty office that was located a few blocks from our condo. Again, we blessed our GPS! There are so many one-way streets and, to complicate matters few, if any, street signs, so it is very difficult to figure out where you are!! Also, being Monday morning the traffic was much worse than yesterday. This didn’t seem to faze Bill very much and it is obvious that he will be a match for the taxi drivers in no time!!

A heavy downpour while we were in Thrifty was going to make it a little difficult for Priscilla to walk very far on crutches and Thrifty kindly offered to drive us to the Marriott Hotel where we relaxed and had some coffee before heading to the Attorney’s office. It is a beautiful hotel and just the thing for those who want to be surrounded by American style living but we decided we preferred to experience a more Panamanian lifestyle.

After a $2 taxi ride to the Attorney’s office we found out that the passports had not arrived yet and would be delivered to our condo. We decided to go to the Copa Airlines office to get our boarding passes (and hopefully change our seats to bulkhead). The office was filled with people and we took a number and sat down. Ours was 79 and the number on the board was 48 so we settled down for a wait. After a while, Bill decided to make sure we could get boarding passes without our passports. It’s a good thing he did because the answer was NO!

After lunch we went back to the condo to await word that the passports were on the way. When Bill called the Attorney’s office at 4:30pm to get an update he was told the passports would be delivered in 10 minutes. 45 minutes later at 5:15pm they arrived and Bill headed off to the Copa Airline office to get the boarding passes before they closed at 6pm. This time his number was “Numero Uno” and the number on the board was 87 (we haven’t learned to count past 10 yet!)

After 15 minutes, Bill decided to ask if there was a line just for boarding passes. The agent pointed to the boarding pass kiosk across the room. Bill asked if they wanted to see the Passports and she said it was not necessary! Oh well …! Bill did as instructed and proceeded to enter in the name and airline record locator number at the kiosk. This was exactly the same information he had entered online in Orlando.

The next step was to print the boarding passes. That ordeal took 15 minutes, with the printer crashing three times! Fortunately, the guard knew how temperamental the kiosk was and came to Bill’s rescue! After shutting down and rebooting three times, Bill emerged with 2 copies of each of the boarding passes! Bill asked him if it would not have been easier to have the passes printed at the counter but he was told by the guard that this was not possible because they had run out of ink!

The moral of the story is to allow plenty of time – and have plenty of patience – to accomplish anything in Panama! We have found that everyone is very helpful, very polite and very friendly and that counts for a lot.

We have a very early start tomorrow so the next blog will come from Orlando and, hopefully, we will have plenty of photos for you to see.

Panama has a very interesting history, fantastic wildlife and birds, a fascinating cultural diversity and incredible beaches and marine life. It will take us months, even years, to fully understand the secrets of this small country and we are looking forward to every minute of it.

See you in the States!

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