Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Where in the world...?

I often get asked is "Where is Panama?". When I first moved here, I was actually surprised that my classmates had no clue Panama was actually a country, and not the city in Florida.

It is not an island, and yes, there is a country of Panama, not just the canal. Even though the Canal is what most people know about the country, there is a whole lot more about this tiny piece of land I call home.

It borders Costa Rica and Colombia, and the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. There is actually a place in my province where, on a clear day, you can see both oceans at once. Pretty cool, right?

On this map (from Mapquest), you can see Panama City. On the left side, close to the water, it's my hometown David.

I'm really excited about going home soon. For the first time since I left home (19 years ago) I'm going home as a "tourist". It really is different but I have the chance to rediscover my home, and all it has to offer. I'm so excited to show it to my husband and kids, and even more so, to see if through their eyes.

Of course, there is still lots of packing to do, and the trip is weeks away. But I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Making a list...

...Not checking twice. At least not yet.

I haven't updated this blog in ages. I really do not have anything too exciting happening on a day to day basis.

Let's see if I can do a quick recap of my "rock star life", shall we?

*Family time
*House work
*Trip planning.

Nothing too exciting, as you can see. For the most part anyway.

I'm still ironing out the last details of our trip. Royal pain in the you-know-what. Panama has become quite a tourist attraction, specially Panama City. I've been looking for reasonable hotels in a safe area for weeks now. Would you believe a room at a Country Inn and Suites costs $130 per night in the LOW season? I was quite surprised, to be honest.
I would be lying if I said there weren't cheaper hotels. There are, and some have great reviews from other travelers. The problem is some of them do not have rooms big enough for us. So even though they would be great for a couple, or even a couple and a child, they could not accomodate a family of 5 and all the paraphernalia we have to travel with.
I think I finally narrow it down to 2 B&B, in a nice area and with the room we need.

Then there is the fly vs. rent a car dilemma.

My family lives to the northwest of Panama City, a 6 hr drive, right on the border with Costa Rica. There are flights from Panama City every day but these are small "puddle jumpers", so they have weight restrictions on the luggage. The twins would not pay fare, but would have to ride on our lap (about 1 hr flight). But we would have to pay for their luggage since they don't have a ticket.
Once you add up the airfare for the 3 of us who have to pay, and the extra for the luggage, it's a pretty penny.

So I figured I could find out how much a rental car would be. We have to drive back to Panama City anyway since that's where the international airport is. All the major rental agencies are there (Budget, Avis, Dollar, National, etc), so I figured this should be a piece of cake.
WRONG. More like a pain in the neck.

These agencies do NOT take debit cards, period. Seems like no big deal except we do NOT have credit cards. We got rid of them a long time ago, and since our debit cards work at most places, we don't want one either.

So after contacting agency after agency, and hearing over and over again they do not take cash or debit cards, I came across a locally owned agency who was willing to let me use cash and pay a deposit. I never thought I'd deal with businesses who rather deal with plastic than with good ol' cash. You live, you learn...

So that's two big things that are finally coming together. Now I have to make a list (yes, a list) of people I want to see once I get to my hometown. God forbid I forget anyone, I'm sure my citizenship would be revoked! And a list of other places I want my family to see. That part should be a piece of cake since we have lodging already (courtesy of family and friends); and I'm more familiar with the area.

I guess I should start packing or at least making a list of things to take with us. I hate packing, period. Now you can imagine what I'll be going thru packing for 5 people.

I'll be good and update more now that I'm getting closer to the trip and afterwards. I want to do a travel journal (sort of) with pictures and such once I return.