Sorry. Every time I say "Panama" the Van Halen tune of the same name immediately fills my head. After some delays and some confusion over my transportation…I arrived last night at about midnight to the Playa Bonita hotel in Panama City.
Now that I’m here, I realized how I was lulled into a sense of comfort by the fact that Panama uses US Dollars and the same electrical outlets as we do at home:
- Not used to international travel, I didn’t remember how to dial home (even though my quad band gsm cell is set up international usage). After some fiddling, it’s 00, 1-area code-number. Rookie move.
- I didn’t bring along the hotel phone number with me. My hotel arranged transportation. Most everyone here speaks English. I could have called them and they would have told me that the car dude was waiting outside, with a sign that said, "MR. DUGLAS". OK, I put 2 and 2 together eventually. I really felt like a star when the driver said, "Meester Dooglassss, Meester Michael Doooglas". I had a Wall Street moment, wiped the sweat from my brow, and said, "Ummmm…if you mean Douglas Mitchell I’m the one?" He was relieved and so was I.
- I really didn’t get much instruction from the flight attendants or anyone at the airport on what documentation was needed upon entry into customs. I did purchase the "Tourist Card" for $5 that you present to immigration…but the agent looked at me weird as I explained I didn’t have a declaration form (was I asleep for that portion of class?). He rapidly stamped things in my passport and sent me on my way with a hand wave and a completely unfilled out form. Oh well, I guess they DO profile and figured that I was either the most awkward drug king pin or really here on business.
- I should have tried to arrive in the day time. Panama is stable and pretty friendly with everyone but there’s nothing like driving down back country roads in the driver’s 5-series BMW at a high rate of speed to make you think, "OK, when he gets blocked in by the assailants that he’s arranged, you jump out of the passenger door…but keep your cell phone…and don’t stop running until you hit water!" I had visions of that scene in Clear and Present Danger in my head where the suburbans get pinned in an alley and Jack’s SUV gets bombed. A long day of travel will play with your head.
- If anyone living east of Arizona ever says, "It’s soooooo humid here", just smack them. This place is only in the 70’s this morning and my glasses fog everywhere and sweat pours. Instantly.
I hope you enjoy the view. Pictures of the canal, etc. to come if I can get there.