In August 2014 I made a trip to Panama (by myself) as a celebration of my 76th birthday. I was born on the 24th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914. Here is what I posted in Aug. 2014:
As I said in the blog article I posted on August 15 [see here], today is my birthday—and it is one I will remember as long as I live, which may not be so many more years now. (How many is “many”?)
I had a delightful visit to the Canal on its 100th and my 76th birthday. I left the hotel about 8:00 and got there before 9:00, which was opening time at the Miraflores Lock visitors center.
Just at that time there were five ships waiting to go through the lock, and the first was quite large. I got to see the lock fill up and all five go through.
it was the centennial celebration there were many TV stations there, explanations in both English and Spanish, free soft drinks for all, etc.
There was quite a bunch of people who I went in with when the doors opened, but when I left a couple of hours later it was just packed in the visitors center. Because of the noise I decided not to stay any longer, but I was able to see and to experience the main thing I had come here to see/do.
It has been amazing how few gringo/as I have seen here in Panama City. There were not even many at the Canal, and many who were seemed to be Europeans, not USAmericans. I don’t think I have seen even one on the Metro, which I have ridden several times now.
This is what I wrote on August 14, the day before my birthday:
Well, it was an interesting morning/midday. I went out to take a walk right after breakfast. I found the Metro is not far from the hotel, so after coming back and resting a bit from my first walk I set out by Metro for the old part of the city—that dates back to the 1500s and some of the buildings still there are from the 1600s.
After walking for a long time, I bought a Coke and sat down on a park bench to rest. Soon an older man greeted me in English and sat down beside me. It turned out that he was my personal guide for the next couple of hours.
His name is Conrad Grant (his cell number is 6832-9350). He was born in 1936 and his grandfather came from Jamaica and helped build the Panama Canal. He remembers his grandfather, for he lived until 1944. Conrad grew up as a Zonian with dual citizenship, and his English was quite good.
One sad thing about his story is that his wife was killed and his house destroyed in the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989, and he lived for several in a refugee camp.
Nothing was said about him becoming my tour guide through the old city; it just happened. I offered to buy him lunch, but he said he only wanted a bottle of beer—which he knocked over and spilled on me while I was eating.
When I was finally too tired to go on any longer, I told him I had to go back to the hotel to rest. Since he had told me that Panamanians, like the ones working in the restaurant where I ate and he drank, made $10 a day, even though nothing had been said about me “employing” him, when I started to leave I offered him a $10 bill. But he quickly said he wanted $20—which I gave him without arguing. It was a very enjoyable, and educational, tour. (I just wish I hadn’t been so tired and could have continued a little longer.)
On Sat. afternoon, Aug. 16, I flew from Panama back to the U.S.
The flight from Panama City left on time, or a little early. It was mostly clear and I had an aisle seat, so I could see quite clearly the mountains between the oceans, and then about 3:20 I could see the north coast, the Caribbean Sea, quite clearly.
Later on I saw what was no doubt the south coast and then the north coast of Cuba. I could even see a highway running east and west across the island.
And then a while later I was also able to see part of the west shoreline of Florida. It sure was interesting to be able to see so much from the window.