Coronavirus, Panama 2020

Early Return to the USA from Panama

Monday, March 16, 2020

Since my temperature still read high, I returned to the clinic. The nurse checked me and said it was normal. I silently thanked the Lord and walked a few blocks to the Movistar store to get my phone fixed. Since it didn’t open until 9 a.m., I grabbed a delicious cup of $1 coffee next door at the Boquete Sandwich Shop. Ex-pats happily visited with friends and used the free wifi. Back at Movistar, the employee said I put my chip in backward. Ugh. My brain wasn’t working too well at 1 a.m. With my remaining 200 minutes, I could easily call Delta in the USA.

I went back to the coffee shop and tried Delta, but the recording said the wait was very long. I got back on the Delta app and tried to change my return ticket but it just kept bumping me out. I changed tactics and looked for a new one-way ticket tomorrow. Success! Since first-class and comfort-class were already full, I chose a seat on the aisle in the half-empty cabin class. My empty row had no one in front or behind me. With relief and thanks to God, I walked back to the hostel.

I turned on my bathroom faucet but nothing came out. I went out to the kitchen and asked the Italian couple also staying here about it. They said the water went off shortly after I left. Because it’s toward the end of the dry season, perhaps they are rationing water. I later found out no one in town had running water except those with a reserve tank. The water main broke and they are repairing it. I probably got the stomach bug from drinking contaminated tap water. Live and learn.

With no water, I think I should fly to Panama City (PTY) tonight and stay at a hotel close to the airport. I contacted the travel agent to change my ticket from David to PTY from April 2nd to today. About an hour later she called me back and said she got me on the 5 p.m. flight for a change fee of $10. She recommended a hotel for me to book on my own. I found it on and reserved it for tonight.

I called the tour’s bus driver and he said he would gladly give me a ride to the David airport at 3:30 p.m. I finished packing and gave some extra clothes to the cleaning lady and the rest of my food and a few of my surgical masks to the Italian couple. They decided to quarantine in the hostel for the duration since there were no flights to Italy. They talk with their families daily and said things are grim there with a high death toll from coronavirus.

I walked back to the sandwich shop for lunch since I probably wouldn’t have time for dinner tonight. I sat at a table outside on the porch and chatted with a retiree who lives 100 miles from me in the USA. He arrived in Boquete 2 weeks earlier and was renting an apartment for 3 months while he studied Spanish daily at the still open nearby language school. We exchanged our contact info and I wished him well.

Back at the hostel, I took 2 Tylenol to lower any fever I might have and rode with my driver to the airport. I bid goodbye to beautiful Boquete after we crossed the police checkpoint knowing they would not let me return until after the country reopens to tourists. I wonder if the Lord will lead me to return in the future?

I joked with my driver and said I would text him if the police wouldn’t let me on the plane. Maybe he could hide me under a blanket and get me back into Boquete. It felt so good to laugh and break the tension! I gave him a big tip because he will not earn any income from tourists for his family for many weeks.

The police let me on the plane after I told them that I would leave the country the next afternoon. No one checked my temperature. I put my mask on before I climbed the outdoor stairs, found my seat, and turned around to see how many people were on the plane. To my delight, I saw one of my favorite YouTube couples and said hello and told them how much I enjoyed watching their channel. They said they were escaping to the USA also since they were near the end of their 3-month tourist visa. I gazed out the window at the Pacific Ocean and the tiny coastal islands.

The only time I have worn a mask while flying.
Farewell to the beautiful coast of Panama.

After 30 minutes we landed in steamy PTY. I grabbed my suitcase and carry on bag and walked in the dark to the hotel shuttle area. I waited and waited and waited in the heat as numerous cab drivers offered me a ride. I did not want to take a cab alone at night with a strange man. Finally, after 90 minutes the hotel van arrived and I squeezed in with 15 other weary travelers. Thankfully, I still wore my mask.

After checking in, I found the gift shop and bought a big bottle of water and a few small souvenirs to prove I was in this beautiful country. I gave the cheery clerk a gospel tract and he grinned and said, “I’m a Christian also! Can I tell you my favorite Bible verse?” “Of course!” I replied.

“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth.” Ecclesiastes 12:1

I said, “That’s such a wonderful verse. I memorized that one also when I was your age.” I took his photo and told him I would pray for him to continue to grow in the Lord’s grace. I thanked the Lord for letting me meet another believer at the end of this long tense day.

I was delighted to find this Spanish English New Testament in my hotel room, a rare occurrence in Latin America.

I discovered a Spanish English Gideon New Testament in my bedside stand and praised God for His journey mercies as I read one of my favorite verses.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13




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