A Panamanian Vacation
The plane touches down on what’s technically considered South America, and I immediately feel the time warp that flying causes. We left Denver with snow on the ground and 16 degree (F) temperatures. Panama’s tropical air soothes my flight nerves, and I can’t help but to crave an ice cold beer or maybe even a Pina Colada.
Customs and Immigration seem far too easy. We’re out of the airport in a matter of minutes . . . American tourists are clearly welcome travelers here. Our two hour drive to the resort by van taxi commences before I can take another breath of the warmth or think twice about that beer.
Lindsay’s Spanish-speaking abilities and rather refined accent impresses the van driver, (and will impress just about everyone on the trip), so he’s eager to enjoy a conversation with us. As fast as Lindsay can ask questions, our driver answers with animation and a lovely depth of information about Panama. My speaking abilities aren’t nearly as strong. I sit back and listen to the guided tour, squinting into the dark outside trying to see what I can see.
Themes of development, globalization, and liminality emerge. Rising silhouettes of skyscrapers reveal the immense skyline of Panama City. One building twists around itself, looking like a tornado, while another reaches higher than all the others (the Trump Tower). We traverse the Bridge of the Americas, which crosses the southern end of the Canal; we’re now officially in North America.
Once through the Canal Zone the land becomes less populated and I can only see shadows of movement. We pass by two motorcyclists chugging up the steep grade. A pack of dogs work their way through an abandoned lot. A few front patio lights are on, revealing families gathered around outside dinner tables, groups of friends playing dominoes and cards, and shop owners closing up their stores for the night.
According to our guide, we’re traveling through an extensive rainforest, part of which is protected as a National Park, one of many in the country and a source of great pride for Panamanians. Jungle mountains rise up from the mist and dark, back-dropping the small villages that come and go on our way to the resort. Some larger towns close to the beach resorts, like the town of Coronado, boast large shopping centers, fast food restaurants, and clear signs that Western European and American culture has made its mark.
In no time at all, we’re at the front entrance of the Royal Decameron. We thank our driver, check-in, and head to one of the buffets still open at 10 pm. I get that long awaited beer and smile to myself, this trip will clearly be filled with dichotomies.