I am going to leave the fishing tales for the fishermen and woman to tell in another post. For those of you who follow Sean on any kind of social media you already know that they had a good day. So good in fact, that they are back out fishing right now while I repeat my lazy routine of the other morning: sleep in, drink coffee while watching the ocean, go for a walk, read. Pretty glorious. It was a bit windy this morning so we will see if they catch dinner again.
The other day after Sean and the kids got back from fishing we had lunch in town at a small indoor/outdoor restaurant on the main drag called Smiley’s. The owner is an American by way of Michigan and Virginia but has been living in Panama for over 20 years. His specialty is Carolina style BBQ and it was amazing. The meat was perfectly cooked in the giant smokers out back and the sauce was delicious. Washed down with a cold Panama beer (for me) and a strong Santeno (rum and maracaya juice) for Sean, it was the perfect spot for Oscar’s birthday lunch. He even got to feed the resident parrot a French fry before we left.
After lunch we drove a few minutes past our hotel to a huge empty beach and spent several hours walking, poking crabs, peering into tidal pools and swimming. And because the kids think that you can never do enough swimming, we went to the pool and stayed until the sunset.
Oscar’s dinner was the catch of the day followed by a huge Brownie pie that I ordered from the bakery in town and beautifully decorated by Sofia with store bought whipped cream, sprinkles and M&Ms. Not a bad way to spend your ninth birthday!
Yesterday, we arranged a half day trip to La Isla Iguanas. The small island, about eight kilometers off the mainland, is home to (of course) iguanas, turtles, several different species of birds, crabs and one of the nicest beaches I have ever been on. During World War II, the U.S. Air Force used the island for bombing practice and you can still see several craters. In typical (or what I have come to experience as typical) South American style we did not simply show up at Pedasi Tours for our trip. Nope. First we had to wait because the woman at the front desk never told the owner that Sean had come in the day before to confirm our trip. We paid. Then we had copies of our passports made. We sat around for a while wondering if we were actually going on the trip. The snorkel flippers went missing and were found. Finally, we got back in the rental car and drove to Playa Arenal to the boat launch.
But, first we had to clear immigration. On the beach. (I still don’t understand why. There is literally nothing on Iguana island except for a small visitor center.) There were several officials from different branches of the Panamian government to help with this process, one to look at our passports and write down all of our information, another to guide us to the next person who was sitting approximately 8 feet away in the shade, another person to again look at our passports and write down our information and another person (maybe he was an official in training?) to look over that person’s shoulder. I have a Master’s Degree in International Affairs and think I am a pretty culturally sensitive person, always reminding the kids that people do things different ways in different countries but this seemingly pointless exercise (with a rude attitude) drove me absolutely insane.
It’s probably a good thing that I was so annoyed and distracted because I didn’t notice the guys loading the coolers and chairs into our boat or how big the waves were. The boat launch was actually a small rickety boat on the beach. The kids and I sat on a bench (the only seats) with another woman and Sean and two other guys sat on top of the boat. We had to basically throw ourselves into the boat (not easy we all got soaking wet) and took off at warp speed into huge waves. The boat tipped up then came crashing down hard as I gripped onto the sides and the kids imagining that we would all fly off into the Pacific any second. I have to idea how Sean managed to hold on. I think he was happy that he had his back to me so he didn’t have to see the terror on my face. I have a lot anxiety when it comes to boats, especially small boats. It doesn’t take a lot to make me seasick and I never know when it will hit which adds to the anxiety. (It’s one of the reasons I don’t like to go out fishing. The whole Hayes family loves to fish and still after all these years can’t quite understand why I rarely go with them.)
But, there I was out in the middle of the Pacific just hoping for the best, trying to do some Yoga breathing and keeping my eye on the horizon (which was bobbing up and down in my field of vision.) By the time we reached the island I was prepared to make La Isla Iguana our permanent home, there was no way I was getting back on the boat. We set up camp on the beach and swam in the water for hours stopping only to eat sandwiches and walk around. Sean and the kids did a bit of snorkeling and we were all lucky enough to see several whales migrating off shore, tails flipping out of the water. Luckily by the time we left the wind had died down so the ride back was much easier. (Plus, I think I would have run into major problems had I tried to take up residence on La Isla Iguana.)
After reaching dry land, we went back to Smiley’s for a quick Happy Hour drink (the parrot said “hola” to us) then returned to the hotel for a swim. For dinner we ventured into town on the dark, bumpy roads to Segreto, a small Italian restaurant for some of the best pasta we have had in a long time. The sky was completely clear when we got back from dinner, save for some clouds on the horizon and the flashing lights of a distant thunderstorm. I have never seen so many stars in my life. Oscar was exhausted so we sent him to bed and Sean, Sofia and I went up to the porch off to do some sky gazing. Sean and Sofia both saw shooting stars. The fuzzy arch of the Milky Way spread further than we could see. We stayed out there for a long time, eyes turned toward the sky, listening to the waves crashing, frogs croaking and insects buzzing, marvelling once again, for what seems like the hundredth time in weeks, at how lucky we are.