March 17, 2020 – Tuesday – Panama City, Panama
God blessed me as I read my favorite travel psalm.
“My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.” Psalm 121:2-3 NKJV
I thanked the Lord for a good night’s sleep and a hot shower. Yippee! They have hot running water! My temperature still registers a little high, but I feel fine. Since my flight to Atlanta doesn’t leave until 2 p.m., I have time to explore the hotel courtyard and have a leisurely breakfast, probably my only meal of the day. The pool area with waterfalls and a giant chess board looked inviting. Too bad I don’t have time to swim. I admired the orchids growing on the trees.
In the hotel restaurant, the waitress seated me and brought a plate of eggs, sausage, fresh fruit, toast, and delicious Panamanian coffee. I chatted with another American at the next table who had been looking for land to buy the previous week.
I took a couple Tylenol to lower any fever I might have, put on a new mask, and caught the 11 a.m. hotel van back to the airport. A friendly lady and her dad who I met on the shuttle last night told me they hoped to get on my Atlanta flight standby. Today might be the final day to leave before the President of Panama closes the airports because of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m glad I reserved my seat yesterday.
I found my gate and boarded after they called my row. Again, no one checked my temperature. I found my seat on the plane in coach class after walking through the full first-class and comfort class. After a few minutes, others filled my row, and all the seats around me. So much for having an empty coach class like when I bought my ticket yesterday. I gave a thumbs up to my new friends as they walked past me and took two of the last seats. The pilot announced that we had to wait for an American tourist to land on the final plane that was being allowed into Panama. Then this passenger had to go through customs and take the last available seat on our plane back to the USA. He arrived thirty minutes later and we took off.
After a couple hours, the attendants started serving beverages and snacks. My neighbor wanted something so I tapped her on her sleeve. She glared at me and said, “Don’t touch me!” Then another attendant came on the overhead speaker and asked everyone NOT to touch the attendants but to simply raise their hand. It’s so hard not to touch anyone. I’ve visited Latin America numerous times and normally the demonstrative people greet visitors with a hug. Such a change. I could see the tension in the faces of all the attendants. Not one smiled the entire flight. These are strange days and new territory for all of us.
With relief, we landed in Atlanta. I grabbed my two small bags and entered the long line in customs with hundreds of other American citizens. Apparently, several international flights landed at once bringing everyone back home before all the airports closed. Most people have some sort of mask on. Again, no one checked my temperature. I finally cleared customs and started walking to terminal C, far away in this massive airport. As I walked as fast as I could, I asked the Lord to give me the strength to make my final flight on time. In terminal D, I looked to my right and discovered the train. I hopped on and arrived at terminal C in a couple minutes. I looked up at the signs and realized I needed to walk 20 more gates. I spied a driver in the empty golf cart for the disabled and asked him to take me. “Sure! Hop in.” I boarded the nearly empty plane with ten minutes to spare.
The short flight landed and I found my car in the airport lot where my friends had left it an hour before. I put my home in my GPS and asked God to take me there safely, especially because my depth perception is limited at night. The streets were empty. Forty-five minutes later, I pulled into my garage at midnight and thanked God with all my heart for bringing me safely home.
A huge bouquet of roses awaited me from my lovely housesitter with a sweet note welcoming me home. She also filled my frig and pantry with groceries since I would be in quarantine for two weeks. I stripped off my clothes and put them in the washer with all my other suitcase laundry. After a hot shower, I fell into my own comfortable bed. There’s no place like home!