Our U.S. Trip, Part 3

Have you ever gone back to visit your hometown or the town you grew up in? This is the first time we have been back to Auburn, California where Mikkel and I lived before moving to Pedasí. Most things seem familiar and yet different. Perhaps it is because we are visitors and not residents, and our home is now elsewhere.
Nevertheless it was good to see our past friends, especially from the church we had attended. We stayed at a guest home offered by our friends, Marcella & Steve. The 3 bedroom house was the home of Steve’s mother until she moved to a skilled nursing facility. We are so blessed to have such friends to open up this home where we could relax quietly when we were not visiting other friends and family, going to the VA medical facilities for scheduled check-ups for Mikkel, or shopping for a few more things we wanted to bring back with us. Located outside of Auburn in the country near a place called Hidden Falls, we enjoyed watching the deer and the peace.

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Now those who live in Panama and those who have been following my blog know that occasionally living without certain utilities such as electricity, internet, and water is common. I guess you can say we felt right at home when the water levels in the well on the property sometimes would be low; thus little or no water pressure. Also, the electricity never went out, but the internet was sporadic and slow. The routers were across the driveway in the main house and only sometimes would reach our house. We even bought a router extender to use back in Pedasí, but we were still too far. And there was no to little reception for my cell phone. Some days and times would be better than others. With no TV as well, so we resorted once again to driving into town to a Starbucks where you can get free wifi. But I won’t complain; the price was right (free) and we had a kitchen stocked with dishes, pans, utensils and even some food and drink to cook some of our own meals. Thank you Marcella and Steve who had a meal waiting for us when we arrived and the night before we left as well.

As I wrote, we attended our former church, Auburn Grace Community on Sunday and were glad to see so many of our friends. The church building had recently been significantly remodeled, so it was like going somewhere for the first time. That evening we attended the 12th annual “Christmas Desserts”, a musical program I used to sing in. This year was better that ever and well worth seeing.

During the week we also visited my daughter Kat at her two places of work and went out for dinner and dessert; had a great time. I also went to the Women’s Bible study brunch and ate lots of good food as well as met a lot of new women; things have certainly changed since I served as a co-leader. We visited some good friends who invited us over for dinner one night and asked many questions about our life in Pedasí. Every time we would see someone we knew, there were a lot of questions about what it is like; have we learned Spanish; how much is the cost of living; are there other expats where we live; etc. We would answer as best we could and they seemed happy for us. The pastor admires us for having a dream and pursuing it.

That week all the news reports and even the electronic highway condition signs warned us of an upcoming storm Wednesday through Friday, the biggest one of the season with flooding and heavy winds. It arrived in Auburn Thursday morning, but we kept asking where was this big storm everyone was concerned about. After living in Panama for 16 months, in comparison, this storm was mild to us; the only difference is the temperature. Funny how things change.

But at the end of the week, I somehow came down with an intestinal flu and was up most of the night. Have you ever gotten sick on vacation? Not fun! The next day I was totally exhausted, so while I slept, Mikkel went to a sports bar in Sacramento to join other Naval Academy alumni and parents of present academy midshipmen to watch the Army/Navy football game. He brought a previously stored box of books from the Academy and the president of the Parents’ Club was happy to receive them. (One more less box of books to bring back). Navy won; 13 consecutive years now. By that evening I was able to eat a little, finally.

On our final day in Auburn I was better; so we attended church again to say our goodbyes. Then afterwards went to the Placer Pops Chorale Christmas concert at Harris Center/Three Stages in Folsom. For many years before I left for Panama, I was a member of the Chorale and sang with the group. So it was great to see many more of my friends again, and the concert was spectacular-no disappointment, just miss singing with this group. The 3 last arrangements we had previously sung, so I was singing my part in my head along with them.

Off we drove toward Los Angeles, stopping halfway for the night. Then Mikkel got sick (we share everything). I had to do all the packing and weighing of suitcases making sure everything was under the 50lb. limit. The next morning I drove the rest of the way while Mikkel slept in the car and then again at a hotel in Palmdale. By the next day, although Mikkel was still a little weak, we visited our adopted family again and took their daughter, our “granddaughter” out for a yogurt treat. The weather was very cold, but frozen yogurt is what she enjoys. We left our winter clothes with them, knowing that once in Panama, we won’t ever need them. After saying our last goodbyes(boy, it’s hard saying all those goodbyes), I drove us to the airport, returning the rental car. We looked forward to getting home. Our 4 suitcases full of books, pictures, Costco items, and clothes passed the weight limit. We made it through TSA with Mikkel’s carry-on probably weighing 70-100lbs with Panama maps and guides he is bringing back for a small business venture he and his partner Tim have started. Then we finally flew off on the “red-eye” flight to Panama, fortunate enough to have the exit seats with more leg room and no one in the 3rd seat.

The next morning we arrived in Panama City. There had been a medical emergency on the plane while the flight attendants were serving breakfast, so we had to sit and wait until this was taken care of by a medical team who boarded at the gate. Finally we were able to get off, went though migration (as Panamanian residents, the line is much shorter and faster), found our baggage and a steward who got us through took us to the front of the line for customs inspections. Our pre-arranged driver was there to greet us and take us across town to the bus terminal in Albrook. He found us someone who had a cart for our luggage to take to the bus as we bought the tickets, and a half hour later we were headed for Las Tablas. Our housesitter Ray, was there to pick us up and bring us back home in Pedasí.

We were still exhausted from the trip, so the housesitters took Bella to the beach for a couple of hours and brought back pizza for dinner. After enjoying the evening sharing about our and theirs experiences for the past month, we had another short night’s sleep, only to get up early to take them back to Las Tablas bus station that next morning. They were on there way now to Australia. We were very grateful for them taking care of our pets and home, never worrying about a thing while we were gone. They seemed to have enjoyed our animals and their stay in Pedasí, but did tell us they probably won’t be back because they don’t go to place more than once except to visit family. Nevertheless, it was good to meet them and we will try to stay in touch by email.

Mikkel had a relapse, and has been in bed since, with no energy or appetite. So again I plowed through unpacking all the suitcases, washing loads of laundry, walking the dog, and cleaning the house since Neli had not come for 2 weeks (she finally showed up Saturday). But I am so glad to be home; this is definitely my home now where I feel so comfortable and everything is familiar. We don’t know when we will ever go back to the U.S., but we are grateful we had this opportunity to see our family and friends there. God brought us safe travels and lots of insights. But for right now I am satisfied with living in Pedasí and enjoying the “tranquilo”.