We were a motley crew waiting to board the flight from PTY to IAH. There were Panamanians, of course, going to visit family in the U.S. or perhaps going back to the places where they live now after visiting relatives in Panama City. There were well-dress aging gay couples, the ones who own expensive condos in the San Francisco neighborhood of Panama City — maybe going home for Thanksgiving? Turkey dinner is hard to come by, even in Panama’s nicer restaurants. There were the aging former Zonians, perhaps in Panama for their Balboa High School reunion. You can tell the former Canal Zone people as easily as if they glowed in the dark. They are gray-haired, conservatively dressed, and have a look of disappointed nostalgia about them. They will have visited the old Zone, which is now a Panamanian neighborhood. Some of the buildings they remember are still there, but they notice that the grass is too high, the buildings whitewashed too infrequently, and trash pickup too lax. It just doesn’t look as crisp and polished and pristine white with red tile roofs as it once did. Despite having lived in Panama for decades, they proudly speak English only — did then, do now. There were the paunchy old military guys — the Zone had five bases back in the day — still with buzz cuts, and with ball caps that have memorabilia from their service days. There were some tourists. That people go to Panama for vacation during the height of rainy season astonishes me — but they do. Prices are cheaper, and it doesn’t rain all the time.
And there was me, exhausted after a very emotionally packed five days. I have lots to think about, and those posts will unfold over the next few days.