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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Lock and Key

A 5:45 a.m. flight is bad enough, but then we had to deal with a bumpy ride all the way down to Houston. I thought the plane was going to break apart from all the turbulence. We rocked left and banked sharply to the right. The captain said we were the guinea pigs because so few flights had gone out before ours. UGGH.

The second half of our trip to Panama was more pleasant, until I got off the plane and found out my backpack didn´t make it with me, even though Chris's did. This is the second trip in a row in which luggage has been an issue. After that last mishap with Jennifer´s bag in Morocco, I decided to pack my basic necessities in my carry-on bag, including a change of underwear, my bathing suit and snorkel mask. What more could I need or want?

Unlike the baggage fiasco in Morocco, Continental promised to deliver the bag to me at the posada. In fact, as I write this, I´m waiting patiently for the bag to arrive. One misstep, though, and I´ll be out of luck until Monday afternoon. We fly to the town of David tomorrow morning.

The problems with our luggage didn´t deter us from seeing as much as we could today, while we are in Panama City. The city is huge, cosmopolitan. SUVs are everywhere, and so are the American retirees.

We took a taxi ($10 one way) 12 kilometers outside of the city to see the most famous engineering marvel of the 20th century--the Panama Canal. The Miraflores lock, a series of three water chambers that transfer gigantic barges from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean by lowering the water level (39 inches a minute).

From there, we went to Casco Viejo, the old part of town. We dined alfresco in the Plaza Bolivar at a restaurant called Ego. We shared tapas--carne al cilantro (beef kabobs) and a fig, camambert and proscuitto salad.

Across the square, a crowd was gathering at the Teatro Nacional, a 19th-century playhouse. A man told us that it was opening night of a dance performance sponsored by BMW. In front of the theater, a brand new red BMW was raised on a platform with spotlights shining on it.

And then fabulous people began to arrive in their SUVs and fancy black sedans. I looked down at the only clothes I may have in Panama (if my backpack doesn´t arrive) and decided we should head back to posada to wait, and rest.

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