I hate saying goodbye. I do. This last goodbye, as I left everyone I love in California, was a toughie. As always, our trip inevitably comes to an end and we have to say goodbye to family, friends, the weather, the amazing meals, and that precious vacation time to just let it all sink it. It seems though that just as soon as it is all really sinking in, it is time to go. And there I am, suitcases erupting with gifts from home, tears streaming down my face as I squeeze all the ones I love one last time, unsure of when we’ll all be back together again. The drive to the airport is usually a quiet, heavy-hearted one. In this last case, we drove away from a breathtaking summer night, after an alfresco meal straight out of a magazine with everyone we care about, to face a long flight back to our other home in Panama, heartstrings being played like a cello.
After seemingly endless hours overnight, a 4 hour layover, and 2 flights, the landscape has changed dramatically beneath us, and we will pop out of this travel bubble into an entirely different reality. Tropical clouds separate as our plane descends over Panama City. White, sandy shorelines come into clear view and the Panama Canal is dotted with hundreds of ocean liners and freight ships that look like a child’s scattered toys. As we taxi down the tarmac, the flight crew is addressing us in Spanish and as we pass from plane to terminal, the heat and humidity is streaming through every available crack and crevice, welcoming us back with it’s tongue in it’s cheek.
There is literally no one in line at Immigration and the clicking of a lazy baggage carousel echoes through the empty hall. Our passports are stamped by an unimpressed woman who only seems to want to baby talk with Joaquin. Our bags are scanned through security as the inspector meanwhile chats up a beautiful woman. After a quick drive, I see the giant metropolis of buildings that make up Panama City slowly come in to the horizon from behind my groggy contact lenses. I begin to relax a little. The Cinta Costera leads us alongside the Atlantic and towards Casco Viejo. Families are out walking, parks are overflowing with children, old women run their Sunday errands, and luckily, the traffic is easy. Nothing has changed, and somehow, I find comfort in that. Nothing, even the things I sometimes wish would, has changed, and that’s ok because what I need at that moment is comfort in what I know.
Joaquin is ecstatic to see his little bedroom and all of his toys. He runs around like an airplane through the living room while windows are opened and showers are taken. Finally, with a thud, Juan and I land our weary heads on a pillow. And just like that *poof* we are back in our house, in our neighborhood, in Panama. From one home to another, we are back.
My heart is still heavy and I miss my family so much. But as I re-immerse myself into life here, I begin to realize again why we’re doing this, and why for so many reasons that I won’t ever be able to truly articulate, it is the right thing for now. Why for now, home is in Panama.