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Judy G.
I was raised in South Florida back in the years when it was a peaceful and wonderfully safe place to live. We lived a mile from the beach and could ride our bikes over the intercoastal bridge right to the best beach around. All my years of growing up I was a competitive swimmer and belonged to AAU. I granduated from Florida State University with a BS degree in nursing. I am recently retired but I'm thinking of going back to work to support my hobbies.
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Saturday, February 27, 2016


Have you ever gone on a vacation that you had bad feelings about before you left and knew you should never have gone on by the time you got home?  Well, this happened to me this month.  For a number of months my husband and I had been planning on going to see a good friend of his, who is now an ex- patriot living the cheap life in Panama.  He kept telling us that the country of Panama is just like Florida, only better.  Temps are in the moderate zone, except when you're down in the city, where it's often 100 degrees.  So, on February 8th, we flew into the 3rd world country of Panama, arriving at about 9:30 EST.  Panama is the same time zone as EST in the US.  When we left Tennessee, it was a comfortable 40 degrees or so, and when we arrived in Panama and finally got through customs, it was a balmy and humid 75 degrees, but a little rainy.  We had to drive an hour up into the mountains right outside of Panama City on the bumpiest, pot-hole filled roads I have ever been on.  By the time we got to the area where our friend and his wife lived, the temperature was in the lower 60's and very windy.  I'm talking about 30 mph windy!  We went to bed that night and woke up the next morning to a beautiful day, still very windy.   Our hostess had fixed a lovely breakfast with sausage, waffles (frozen), and lots of fresh fruit.  We spent most of the day just relaxing on their porch and enjoying the gorgeous birds that they feed with bananas 3x daily.  There were even a group of monkeys that came in down to eat too.  This, to me, was thoroughly enjoyable, and, hopefully I got some good pictures.  I haven't had a chance to get them developed yet.
The next day we went down into Panama City itself and to see the Panama Canal.  So it was 1 1/2 hrs. back down those mountains over the bumpy roads.  And this trip was where I first got my good look at the ugly parts of Panama.  There were slums, old thrown-together shacks, starving dogs, and garbage everywhere.  I asked why there were so few cats, and was told that the Chinese people down there eat them.  So, I realized that in the mountainous areas, where foreigners tend to settle, you don't really see the real Panama, and what I saw was just plain disgraceful!  Poverty is still everywhere, and all the fancy high-rises the country is putting up to attract rich Americans can't hide the truth.
But enough of that.  You get the picture.  We paid a guide to give us a walking tour of the city, and it was quite educational.  I did not know that it was originally the French who started to build the Panama Canal.  They settled the area, and most of the architecture in the old city is obviously of French influence and many of the narrow streets and balconies really reminded me of New Orleans.  These restored apartments in the city are selling for big bucks to the rich and famous.

Of course the U S eventually took over the building of the Canal and ran it according to their treaty with Panama until it was finally turned completely back to Panama some years ago.  We did take a tour of the canal and watched some boats go through - very interesting.  It was about 95 degrees down in the city, and we were glad to go back up the bumpy road to the mountain.  The winds continued, and the next day we stayed around the house and just enjoyed watching the birds, monkeys , and an Olingo, which is some sort of nocturnal tree dweller.  There was even an evening of tea and wine get together for the ladies who lived close by to come and meet me.  Of course the husbands came too, but they gathered in a separate area of the porch.  It was very multi- cultural, both in cuisine and language.  All spoke Spanish, but me, and all spoke English but one lady from Syria.
There was much discussion of politics especially from the Syrian lady who had fled her country because she was a political activist.  She cannot go back to Syria now.

As you can tell by this long narrative, so far our adventure was a pleasant one.  Our hosts were wonderful, and they went out of their way to show us a great time.  However, on Friday, February 12th, our lovely vacation came to a sudden end.  That day about ten of us were going to go on an Indian dugout canoe ride down the river to the native Emberra Indian village, where we were going to be fed and entertained with their native customs.  We drove 2 hours to get to the canoe landing, through horrible roads, bans trees and jungle folate - all interspersed with cobbled together houses covered with leaky tin roofs.

We were given bright orange Mae West life jackets to put on.  Mine was so much up in my face that I couldn't see my feet or tell where I was stepping.  I went to step into this big canoe, not realizing that I was stepping onto the slippery, slanted part of the bow of the boat, and down I went with the speed of light!  It happened so fast that I was down on my back with my right leg folded under me before I even blinked.  I was so concerned that I had done drastic harm to my new (R) knee that I had just gotten a little over a year ago, that I didn't notice that I had broken my ankle until the people tried to get me up.  It was then that I noticed my right foot was flopped one way, while my leg was pointing in the other direction.  My knee was fine, but I had broken both the fibula and tibia of my right leg right at the ankle bone.  We splinted the ankle with my Mae West life jacket and it's straps, and we then undertook the 2 hour drive back to Panama City and the San Francisco Hospital ER ( not
 in California).  We had no ID and no passports, as we had left them back up the mountain, but somehow our hostess, who was fluent in Spanish, managed to convince them to let us in for treatment.  After X-rays, I found out that I would need surgery.  No surgery in a 3rd world country for me!   By the next morning our vacation had abruptly ended, and we were headed back to the US.

Thanks to Delta Airlines, wheelchairs were available to me at all times (except in restrooms) and an employee assisted us in expediting going through customs, etc.  It felt so good to get home finally on Sunday, Feb. 14th!  Unfortunately, because of the swelling, I didn't have surgery until Thursday, Feb. 19th, but at least I'm home.  I will be in a non-weight bearing cast for over 6 more weeks, and then I will be in a walking cast for 4 weeks after that.  Then probably rehab. This has been worse that my knee replacement in 2014, because now I am confined to a wheelchair.  Crutches and I don't get along.  So there you have it.  That's my sad story.  My advise is - visit Panama if you must.  But don't move there.  T's cheaper, but it is definitely NOT Paradise.


Sheree said...

Bless your heart! I have wondered where you have been. Please keep in touch and hope you are on the mend. Hugs, Sheree

tnscrapper said...

Oh my goodness!!!! I am so sorry you had such a time on vacation! I have thought about visiting Panama. Thank you for painting a very realistic picture. There are always slum areas in almost any vacation spot. Jamaica is no different - we were there on a cruise stop last year. I didn't even venture outside of the cruise ships shopping port. I have been to Honolulu three times and yes there are bad neighborhoods there too. I hope all goes well with your recovery and rehab.

(your west TN neighbor)

Judy G. said...

Thanks to both Sheree and tnscrapper for your caring comments. I'm recovering well and will be going into a walking cast next week.

Jaqueline Villanueva said...

So sorry to hear.... Hope your recovery has been good.... I was wondering why no new You Tube Videos as i love your Videos...... I my self have a Labral Tear and will have surgery soon.... But afraid of the recovery time.... I'm dreading the high stairs in my house I will have to climb to go to my room.....

Judy G. said...

Oh, Jacqueline, maybe you should set up a place to sleep downstairs for a couple weeks after surgery. My house is only one story, so I can only imagine how difficult stairs must be. Hugs to you.

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