Sunday, April 28, 2013

Panama City... I Think We Saw It?

Standing in front of a LDS chapel in Panama City, Panama
Today, Martin, Lily and I went to Panama City to "try" and attend church.  I thought I had everything in order by hiring a driver the day before and making sure he was at the dock at 8:00am sharp!  He arrived only to tell me that his brother-in-law was going to take us instead.  "Fine," I said, "As long as he knows how to get us there."  

Well, here's where the story takes a turn.  We knew that we were already going to be a little late for church, because we knew that Panama City was an hour and a half away and there was traffic to consider.  What I forgot about was that we have to cross over (actually through) the Panama Canal to get to the freeway that takes us to Panama City. 

When we got to the Canal, the locks were just closing and we missed our green light to pass through.  Meaning, we had to wait for a large freighter and cruise ship to pass through the Canal.  Which takes anywhere from 30-40 minutes.  
Since we had to wait, we might as well take a picture.
Lily and me standing in front of the Panama Canal.
The cruise ship is barely squeezing in through the locks.
This ship didn't have more than a few inches on each side.  
It's amazing to watch them each go through the locks.
Once we finally got past the canal, we were off to Panama City.  Our first clue that our driver had no idea where he was going (even though we had provided him directions from Mapquest) was when he asked the woman at the toll booth, "Which way to the temple"?  What?  It's that popular?  Pretty soon, Martin and I realized that he wasn't taking us to the LDS (Mormon) Temple, but to some other type of temple.  Uh oh.  When we pointed it out to him, he acted confused and started driving and driving and driving... with a few twists and turns and U-turns in between.  Finally, I downloaded the app "WAZE" onto my phone while in the taxi (it's known to be the best app to use to get around Panama) and had to type in the address myself and get the directions... again.  At one point, I had to laugh listening to Martin yell out directions to the driver while holding my phone as my phone yelled out directions to him from the app.  

Finally, 4 hours later we found the LDS church.  We got there just as members were piling out of the church.  We stopped and talked to them for awhile, and even invited a few to come and stay at our home if they were ever in town for the LDS conference that is held twice a year in Salt Lake City.  We even had one sweet member snap a picture of us in front of the chapel.  (Hence, the first picture in this post.)

I was beyond disappointed because I am always so excited to meet new people from various parts of the world, but mainly just to feel the peace that going to church brings to Martin and me by attending.  

No use in crying over spilled milk.  So, from there, we got our driver to take us to "Old Town" which I had read about online and was told it was a "must see!"  As we get to Old Town the driver promptly says, "I haven't been here since I was three years old" (...He had a son who was 26.  The kicker is, that I hired the original driver because he could supposedly give you a "tour of the city.")  The driver then proceeded to just drive through a little road and then back down the hill.  In the course of the driving, we had a minor fender bender that included another driver and a cop.  We were exhausted and tired of being in the car.  Poor Lily was white as a ghost.   
From what we could see from the car, Old Town 
looked like a fun place to visit, but how would we know?
By then it had been a good 5 hours of us really having done nothing so far but drive around in a car.  We were starving and just wanted to get out of the car and find our way around alone.  So, we told the driver to just take us to the "mall" and we would be done with his services.

The driver drove us to Albrook Mall, and if any of you are familiar with this mall, there is nothing like it.  It goes on and on for hours.  If you have missed the GAP, good luck because it is a mile and a half down one end of the mall.  If you are looking for ZARA, well that's another mile on the other side.  
Food courts can be so amazing for Lily.  She had a ball.

Finally, we just stopped and decided to have lunch in the food court.  I saw a Johnny Rockets, which I hadn't been to in 15 years, and ordered pretty much everything on the menu.  I was starved.  Lily was starved and Martin was apprehensive by all the "junk" I had ordered.

Needless to say, I was stuffed from all the food, but boy was I happy!
A little too happy.
Knowing this was going to be our last chance to buy anything we need at a reasonable price.  We walked around the mall for a bit and bought a few things that we probably didn't need but felt that if we didn't purchase the item that we may never, ever see it again.  

Now to get us home.  Sue and David had told us about a bus that we could take for $3.25 a piece.  We found the bus, jumped on it and then realized, we had NO idea where we were supposed to get off.  Finally, I told the driver that we just needed to find a taxi and the next time he saw one to please stop the bus so we could flag it down.  (Insert "Kym getting nervous" here, and Martin not caring in the least bit that we were in the middle of one of the roughest sections of Colon.  He rarely gets nervous over these types of things because I do it for us both).   Unbelievably, the driver waived down the first taxi that he saw and I jumped off the bus and negotiated a price with the taxi driver.  

When we got into the taxi driver's car, we realized that it was less of a car, and more like a go-cart.  Bungee cords were wrapped around everything keeping the car doors, trunk and seats in place.  When we jumped in, we noticed a woman sitting in the front who was obviously a bit inebriated.  (Insert "Kym SUPER nervous" here) and the cab smelled like boiled cabbage and pachouli oil.  I had to put my shirt up over my nose for a second or two.  Then I proceeded to sit erect for the rest of the ride and immediately put my hair in a bun and pulled out tissues in case I needed to touch anything within a 10 inch path in front of me.  I kept swathing Lily in purell and let Martin fight it out on his own.  Martin and I kept silently laughing every time we realized what we had gotten ourselves into.

We took off and zoomed over and around streets  I was certain that the driver had no idea where he was going but he assured me that he did.  (Yeah, yeah, I've heard that before.)  All the while me thinking that the Frey's were going to be front page news the following morning.  Oh, and did I mention that our taxi driver was making out with his 'girlfriend' at every stop light?

When we got to the Canal, as luck would have it, we had to wait for THREE huge ships to go through that lasted exactly 1 hour.  I timed it.  By then I was a nervous wreck.  I just wanted out of the car because I didn't think I could watch the driver and his girlfriend makeout in front of me one more time.  Finally, the gates opened and we were off. 

Words can not express how happy I am to be home after about 8 hours of traveling and doing something that I can't even figure out what we actually did.  Nonetheless, we are safe and sound and dear Lily is tucked away in bed.  

Moral of the story.  Next time, rent a car. Period!