As we embark on the next leg of our journey, I sense a trend in our posts. Tim seems to reflect thoughtfully about the big picture of our travels, and I give the down and dirty reality of traveling with two small kids. So here it is, the down and dirty of us going to Panama.
Our adventure to Panama starts this Saturday. We will leave the house at 6:30am, drive 2.5 hours to Miami airport to board a 3 hour flight. We’ll arrive in Panama City at 2:30pm. Not too bad, except our rental unit is a 5 hour drive from the airport.
We’ll rent our car and hopefully find a grocery store before we leave the city. We’ll buy food and bottled water for our 5 hour car ride. Keep in mind that Vera still screams when you put her in the car for 5 minutes, so by 5 hours, I want to stick my head out of the window like a dog to avoid hearing Vera’s high pitched screams filling every ounce of space in the car, and Oliver shouting above her “I can’t hear the MUSIC!!!!”
Needless to say, I do not find car rides relaxing. We’ll also be driving in a country we’ve never been to, on roads that are rarely marked, with drivers that are notoriously aggressive (it's been compared to Boston), without GPS (because our cell phones won’t be set up yet) and into the evening when it is dark. I anticipate we’ll arrive by 9pm or 10pm at the earliest. Overall, a very long day.
We've received a multi-page list of directions from the home-owner. The directions include tips like, "Make a right at the giant crucifix," and "it is illegal to bribe cops if you get pulled over for speeding.. but if you NEED to, don't pay more than $20!"
When finding our apartment rentals I have two main criteria.
1. Wifi internet. My job is almost 100% online these days. If I don’t have internet, I don’t have an income.
2. A Washing machine. When traveling with young kids, and a small amount of clothing, a washing machine is key. I do a small load of laundry about once every two days to keep us all dressed and smelling fresh!
Other than that, our rental decisions come down to cost, location and number of bedrooms: two or three is preferable but we’ve managed on one.
Our Panama house selection was no exception. We’ve rented a cost-effective three bedroom beach house through Airbnb in a small town in Panama. The owner of the house, Walter, seems great and extremely communicative. He’s gotten very good reviews from his other property on Airbnb (on Airbnb, good reviews are a must).
The one glitch is that Walter purchased this rental in November and has been getting it set up for our arrival next week. He currently lives in California, so setting up a new vacation rental remotely offers some challenges. One of these is that the Panamanian internet company won’t allow him to activate the internet remotely. He needs to do it in person. Luckily he is planning a trip to Panama on February 4th. Meaning, I will not have internet the first week I arrive in the unit. So much for criteria #1.
In order to solve this problem, my new Airbnb best friend, Walter, has set me up with his computer guy, José. José has kindly offered me up a desk with wifi at his office in town. (about 10 minutes from our rental) So, for the first week I’ll be hanging out with the locals, smiling politely and cursing the fact that I didn’t take Spanish, or practice Spanish over the last two months before arriving. I guess “No hablo español, lo siento,” and a smile will have to suffice.
The other thing that hasn’t arrived to our rental unit is the washing machine. So much for criteria #2. It is expected to deliver soon, but is not currently in the unit. Good thing I plan to wear a bathing suit most of the time we are there.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my two must-haves will get sorted out before our arrival. If you notice a long lapse in posting, its because we don’t have a solid connection or income!