Thursday, March 10, 2011

Panama - The Flight

Dear Mark

I've been going on and on about how much I was looking forward to our Panama trip. I really needed the sun and relaxation. I have a few reports that I want to give you. So I'll break them into a series of posts for you to read.

The flight to Panama is always one that I sort of dread. We seem to always settle on the early bird, which means an even earlier wake up time. I mean at 3:30am you can still taste the toothpaste from the night before, right? The day of travel is just long enough of a day to really tire you out. The flight is just under 4 hours to Houston and then just under 4 to Panama City. Usually we have about a 2.5 hour lay over. It is a long enough time to get something to eat, use the lavatory and get tired of waiting for a plane again. It's bumpy going into Houston and wah wah wah, a long day of travel basically sums it up.

Traveling with Lavi is like working on a detailed project with an overly stimulated OCD co-worker. She's in the zone and knows the routine. There are times that I think if I laid in bed and just waited in the morning that she'd wash and dress me out of sheer desire to get to Panama. I joke at her expense but I do seriously mean that she knows what needs to get done.

Last time I went to Panama Jack was 14 months old. We had a stroller and an toddler car seat to carry. and at times a toddler to carry. This time around we took no stroller and Jack carried his own backpack (full of cars, coloring book, sticker book, some back up underwear, his airplane pillow and Perry Panda Bear). Things have changed a bit, for sure.

On the way to Houston smart money would have been that Jack would fall asleep. After waking at 3:15am you'd be sure he'd be tired. But you would be wrong. He monopolized my iPad on the way to Houston watching Dinosaur Train episodes that I had brilliantly transferred over. This was actually a big plus. On our trip to Hawaii last year Jack refused to wear headphones. So while he watched Cars the movie he was easily distracted by things. This time with the headphones on we just had to make sure he kept his voice down. He did really well on the way to Houston. We arrived in Houston and he walked to get some lunch and we were ready to board the next plane on time.

The flight to Panama is always better than the flight to Houston. It might be that it is an international flight. It might be that they actually feed you, for free. It might be that I start hearing spanish and seeing Panamanian people. Whatever the reason things go a little better. Jack managed to fall asleep for about 1.5 hours of the flight. Not a very comfortable way for a little boy to sleep, but he managed. After he woke up he read a book with Mama, had some snacks and played quietly with his cars (after needing the restroom like 3x).

Here's how good Jack was. When we landed, a couple behind us said we had a "wonderful little boy" and were so impressed with how good he was. Now, you have to understand that a 2 year old was near by us in the airplane and he managed to scream for about 60% of the flight. He was not a happy camper. So in comparison Jack was a gifted Angel. Still, it was very sweet and sincere and made my day. I was very proud of Jack.

Now after two 4 hour flights, a 2.5 hour layover and an early rise you'd hope we be done, but no. When you arrive in Panama you have to go through immigration. I will give Tocumen airport some credit in making this better. It use to take literally 45 minutes to get through that line. Now it is much quicker. Ben calls it the "Slam Slam Booth" because that is the sound you hear as you approach, the sound of the immigration officer stamping the stamp pad (Slam) and then your passport (Slam) (while sitting in a booth, just to finish that description). After the Slam Slam Booth you get luggage, go through another inspection and finally out to meet Lavi's family.

Now seeing Lavi's Dad is nice and all. He's a sweet guy for picking us up. But what I look forward to more than anything is the wave of heat that hits me. It is this hot slap of weather that lets me know that I'm in Panama. The heat is what I had been craving and it did not disappoint. Ahhhh.

The day is not done. It's still about 45 minutes to their home in La Chorrera, but that goes quick enough. I feel the heat the whole way to the house. Feel it again as I step out of the car and I feel it again as I relax outside on the patio with a cold drink of water watching Jack run off the last of his energy for the day.

The next 2.5 weeks are going to be hot and fun. I'll let you know about them soon.

Cheers
Jeff

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