When we landed in Panama City’s Toucumen International airport the line at immigration was crawling along. The system that looks up each passport when it gets swiped through the reader seemed to be moving at some sort of sloth’s speed. When we finally got through immigration we headed for baggage claim. Chris’ bag was sitting beside the carousal. My bag was nowhere to be found. I’ve called Copa AIrlines about a dozen times now trying to at least figure out if it left Lima or not. The last call the guy sent me a claim form over e-mail. It’s one of those easy forms that wants original sales receipts for all items over $100. Right. It is kind of a pisser because I had a number boat repair items that Meghan carried down from Seattle in the bag. I also had my apnea dental appliance. This thing makes for a lot better sleeping for me – and for Chris. The thing cost me something like 2 grand by the time the Seattle dentist was done billing me and the insurance company. Oh well, travels woes.
Next up was traveling to Portobello from the mooring at Panamarina so we could straighten out our boat paperwork. Whenever you move into or out of a port that has a Port Captain you are supposed to check-in and then check-out with him. We had checked into the San Blas in December, but have never checked out as the Port Captain was not around each time we left. We’d heard the Port Captain in Portobello was much more sympathetic to this than the one in Colon. The fine is something like $300. Portobello is the old Spanish primary harbor for moving pillaged gold and silver from South America back to the homeland. Today it is a pretty sleepy little town. Mainly run down buildings and the church with a Black Jesus statute that is famous across the country.
We headed into the Port Captains office to plead our case. I can tell we’ve been down in Central America a long time now, when the surroundings just don’t seem to stand out anymore. I’m sitting in the chair next to the Port Captains desk waiting for him to stamp some more paperwork. The building is clearly distressed. The ceiling has black water stains. The ceiling fan is slowly turning and wobbling with each turn. The immigration officer's desk is an old steel office desk that has large rust patterns on the front. Chris is sitting off to the side on what looks like an old church pew. The walls around the back courtyard that you see through the open double raw wood doors are falling down. The last paint job was probably for some major renovation many years ago. Any way, the place looks normal to me and I’m just working with the Port Captain to get our paperwork. He listens to my story and hands me a blank sheet of paper. “Write your reasons here” Chifundo, the Port Captain, tells me. I craft up a nice story, sort like a blog entry, just hand written in my illegible scribble. He takes and just sticks in my pile of paperwork without reading it. We are now lined up for the final stamp-stamp and stamp on the remaining papers and we are legal again.
In the “You can’t make this sh*t up category”, Chris headed off to the airport yesterday for 3 weeks of work in Malawi, Africa. She gets to the airport in Panama City and can’t find here flight. She’s a subcontractor and she was sent her itinerary from a Seattle corporate travel agency. She needed to get to Atlanta so she could catch her 14 hour flight Johannesburg, SA. No flight to be found – “huh, it’s all written on the itinerary with confirmation numbers!” she casually tells the checkin agent. Turns out she was booked out of Panama City, Florida, not Panama City, Panama. Just a minor reschedule, an 8 hour delay and she was off to Sao Paulo, Brazil with an additional 12 hour layover in the international terminal, then off to Jo-berg.