SOMEWHERE IN BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA
It’s sucking me in alive! The Earth swallows my foot, my calf, finally stopping at my knee. Mustering my strength, I free my leg from the muck with a belch, my sandals still stuck deep in the mire. No choice: I roll-up my sleeve, close my eyes, dig into the slime, grope and pull — like birthing a cow.
How did I get here again? Here, in Panama, in the mud. I rewind to the beginning, past the illegal froggers, the professional sniper and Naughty Edgar the kleptomaniac; before The International Man of Coffee, Alice!, the spying landlords and birdwatching zealots.
CHICAGO (8 months prior)
“Why Panama?” They ask me, flummoxed. Less flummoxed than when I went to Dubai, but still somewhat flummoxed.
The idea to travel to Panama germinated in 2003 when I developed a little crush on Canopy Tower Ecolodge and Nature Observatory after reading about it in Travel + Leisure. The article prompted me to research the area. I learned that the weather is sunny and mild most days, confirmed my suspicions that a trip would be economical and discovered that the country is relatively “safe” for a woman traveling solo. Panama’s geographical diversity clinched the deal for me: in the span of a week I can visit a rainforest, a metropolis, the mountains and an archipelago.
Traveling to Panama is easy for U.S. citizens: it’s on Eastern Standard Time, no visa is required, and the dollar is the currency. Yes, some vaccinations are required, but I’ve already received most of them, and I asked my physician for cipro and Malarone prescriptions. For everything else, there are Pringles. I don’t leave the country without them.