Eight Days in Panama
Installment Seven

My wife's second request was that we do not live in a village. One can not help but wonder about a peaceful life way out in
the country. I have lived in such a place. Took several years to enjoy the peace and quiet. About time I learned to like it, peace and quiet got developed. Living out in the country appealed to me when I was younger and worked long days and long hours. I needed a diversion to take my mind off of working. A refuge. Now I am retired I have a different problem. I want to have something to keep me busy. I traded in 12 hour work days into several hours of honey do jobs. For me there was a big adjustment in retiring. During my work years, I dreamed of the day of retirement. Those days of travel, fishing and just doing nothing. When that day came I was accustomed to working. Retirement lasted about a month until I was going stir
crazy. All too often I see the same thing with retiring people. They spend a life time working. The dreams of retirement keeps them going. Like a race horse trained to run, retirement is like putting that horse out to pasture. Setting around watching tv, playing on the computer, watching the clouds pass by. My beloved wife says no village. She wants to keep her race horse a racing, only on at a slower pace.

We had two reasons to go to Taboga Island. My wife loves to swim in the ocean. Not much chance of that in Panama City. Also to check out what life might be like living on this beautiful little island just off shore, still able to see Panama City.
Saturday morning at 7am off we go. We grabbed the hotel cabby and got the good guy price of only $15.00, one way. Not bad I thought. It's a long way to the ferry terminal out on the Amador Causeway. Took about 20 minutes since there was no work day traffic. A line formed at the ferry ticket office. Paid our $10.00 cash each and soon boarded the boat. 2 decks. Looked like a new model of the old one that sunk several months ago. No loss of life, just a lot of angry wet passengers I was told. I think it was the captain that passed life preservers to each of us? Lots of seating on both decks. Off we go. Passing through the canal entrance, dodging the huge ships coming and going. The water was calm. The ferry moved at about 10 knots. Pretty slow but fast enough to get to the Taboga loading and unloading dock in less than one hour.

On the way to the island were some Gringos that struck up a conversation. The youngest said he was the skipper of one of the 2 large tuna boats at anchor in Taboga bay. He and his crew were out of San Diego. They spent a lot of time around Taboga in search of the tuna that goes into the little cans. The tuna boats are purse seiners About 150 feet long. A crows nest is above the boats wheel house. When the person in the crows nest spots a school of tuna, a dory goes off the back of the boat pulling a huge net. The dory circles the fish. The net is pulled in with all the tuna. He and his crew worked the area for many years and said they were familiar with Taboga. They all agreed that life on the island was each crew mans dream in the future when they retire. He said that house prices were $15,000 and up. Seemed low. But how would I know. Thought came to me that perhaps a second home out here would not be a bad idea. Go out and get away from the city for several days. Who knows, maybe stay longer? Skipper said that as long as there was a wind, Panama City was clear. If the wind would stop it could get smoggy like Los Angeles, a city we both knew well.

The island looks covered in thick local tropical vegetation, palm trees and coconut trees. Looked to have about 200 homes. A small condo project. Several small hotels and Hotel Taboga. The landing pier is covered. How odd we thought to see so many local island people just setting around on the dock. Looked as if the towns people just come on down to see the ferry come in? There are several shops and little stores along the water on the main paved trail to the Hotel Taboga. I was told there was a bar and restaurant around the Church. We headed to Hotel Taboga. At the gate we paid $7.00 each to enter. We each got back $5.00 in Hotel Taboga dollars to spend at the bar/restaurant. The grounds were lush very clean and very tropical with all sorts of domestic animals like chickens, ducks, geese and peacocks. There is an older hotel on the grounds that must have been fashionable in the 60's. Around the grounds were individually covered patios with picnic tables, plastic chairs and chaise lounges. Not modern but all very nice. We had use of dressing and restrooms and covered patios. We had missed breakfast leaving our hotel, so our first stop was the covered open air restaurant. For $5.50 we got coffee, juice and a most tasty Panamanian breakfast. As usual food was excellent, well presented and an attentive waiter. Cost us 50 cents more than the hotel money we were given. Not a bad deal!

Wife got her swim suit on. Working on the sandy beach that surrounds the hotel are what I called the "Beach Boys". They rent out beach umbrellas for $5.00 and chairs for $2.00. They follow you where ever you go to set you up on the beach. Wife did not need this since we were using the hotel's chairs. Once she got in the water, she would not get out. Warm clear water with small fish swimming about. Should have had a mask and snorkel. As I watched, the Beach Boys would set up the umbrellas and cleanup the beach. There were 20 or 30 people who had come on the ferry to spend the day on the beach with their food and trash. Beach Boys would go around and take the trash from the sunbathers. The Beach Boys took their job seriously. That beach was really clean. We went back to the bar/restaurant and had happy hour drinks and to cool off. Around the grounds were some big iguana lizards, local to the island. There was a large macaw parrot who came down his tree perch to bite at me. I guess he did not like Gringos?

The day passed quickly. The ferry was to pick us up at 5pm. We left the hotel grounds a little early and walked into the little city center area. In the middle was a small park with a plaque over looking the bay said something about 1524? I guess that was when this little island was settled? Long before America was settled. We did not see all the island. We were content just staying mostly in the hotel grounds. It is said that there are no cars on the island. We did see 2 small pickup trucks, wondered where they got the gas from?

As the ferry docked to pick us up, incoming passengers were getting off. They had been shopping in Panama City. Carrying all their provisions back to their island homes. I thought what a hard way to go shopping. Ferry to mainland, catch a cab, buy your groceries, taxi back to the dock, ferry back to the island and carry all your purchases back to your house some distance away. While waiting to board a passenger dropped his boarding ticket into the sea. We were near the end of the dock away from the shore. Standing by were 3 boats used as water taxi's for locals who must have lived on a more distant part of the island. One of the boat operators saw the problem with the lost ticket. He motored over and picked up the lost ticket and returned it to the man. What a kind gesture, a courtesy that was becoming more apparent as our time went along.
Nice people helping other nice people.

We boarded the ferry and came back across the canal entrance. More huge ships coming and going. The water was a little rougher on the return. Along the way back I wondered what would you do if you lived on the island and ran out of milk? Or needed emergency medical care?

When we docked and went up the gang plank there were a number of cab drivers hawking passengers. We asked one driver if he would take us to the restaurant about 2 blocks away and give us a hour to eat. Then take us back to the hotel. No problem, $6.00. After dinner, our driver Fabian was waiting outside the restaurant. He had a young lady in the front seat with him. Normally I will not get into a cab with another person I do not know. Especially a second man. Anyway we get in and off we go. The young lady was on her cell phone chatting away. When she finished, she introduced herself in perfect English. She asked us how much longer we were going to be in Panama. She chattered with Fabian and then boldly asked what time would we like Fabian to pick us up at the hotel and take us to the airport? I was dumb founded! Short for words, I had to tell her sorry we have made arragements with Nora to do that. So she began to tell us about her life in Panama. Both her parents are Chinese. She considers herself ½ Chinese and ½ Panamanian. She is 15 years old. I asked how was it that she has such good English? Her father had worked in the canal zone. She qualified to go to the American school. She loves Panama and China, and soon will go to China to visit her relatives for the first time. I had to think that Panama is one great melting pot of nationalities. People from all over the world have come to this small nation and now call it home. Just like
the ships that come from all around the world and pass through the canal, only these people come to stay. Panama a cross roads of the world.

Part 8, Coronado, north of Panama City
Installment One Installment Two Installment Three Installment Four Installment Five
Installment Six Installment Seven Installment Eight Installment Nine

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