The Panama Chronicles: Episode 5 – The Rearview Mirror

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

A good friend posted this quote to her Facebook page this week and I’ve reflected on it as I grappled with writing my last post on Panama.  I put these Panamanian vacation chronicles aside nearly three months ago, thinking that it would be interesting to write the concluding chapter some months later.  How would my perspectives about the trip change? What would I remember? Which final moments would stand out?

But sitting here in snow-covered Denver, the early November trip to the tropics is a foggy memory.  So much has happened during these winter months; so many days I’ve awoken with that high spirit and dived head first into new adventures, new hobbies, new outlooks on life and work. Simultaneously, I believe strongly in reflecting on the experiences we have and making use of them, so that each of Emerson’s new days can be approached with wiser eyes, a resilient spirit, and that serene attitude.

A few notes I jotted down on our car ride to the airport for our return flight home from Panama probably capture the essence of my final reflections about the trip. Our van driver was quite talkative, especially after he learned that Lindsay could speak excellent Spanish. “F****ing Hugo Chavez,”  he switched to English making sure that we got the main points of his diatribe on politics and the economy and life in Panama.

He offered a perspective on all these issues, a perspective that we assumed, but no one had yet confirmed. Beach resorts are not the best place to really understand a culture or a country.  We’d been making fun of ourselves just a bit, sitting on the beach for six straight days, sipping bad beer and strong Pina Coladas, watching the sunset, reading, and contemplating life. It was all a rather stark contrast to the neighborhoods and small towns just outside the boundaries of the resort.

The van driver’s explication on the success of the wealthy and the plight of the poor in his country put our time at the resort into even more perspective. “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to pay the price.” He shared his thoughts on the unemployment rate, the necessary work ethic to live, and his own drive to lead a life of contentment, but not one satisfied by material goods or excessive needs.

“I am happy,” he stated proudly as we pulled over to a road side stand for a snack of freshly roasted cashews. “Just like that,” he commented on the cashew vendors, “doing what they can to make it. The rule is, survive.” I think Emerson and Buddha and many other profound thinkers would agree with our van driver’s philosophy.

We rolled on down the highway, alongside the roaring green hills of the rainforest, with the sun shining on both North and South America, and the Pacific ocean beckoning on the horizon. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful country.

So is today.

About mlgray

Heading out on adventures, building community, eating delicious cuisines, supporting the local food movement and enjoying walks in the wild . . . grateful to be wandering in the world with you.
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