Playa Venao, Panama Part 1

 This will not be my normal blog with all sorts of crazy activities to brag about. No, we did not scuba, or zipline, or helicopter over the city of Panama (although we thought about it). This vacation was probably the most quintessential beach cabana retreat most one-percenters luxuriously imbibe. (But you can do all that adventure stuff, plus a monkey island and sloth reserves.) 

But first, per usual, the adventure begins way ahead of our arrival. It took us seventeen-and-a-half hours to get there — if you do not include food, gas, overnight with mom, and pee stoppage time. 

Casa Azul

Actually, it took the whole pandemic to get there. Our trip to Panama was originally schedule for Spring Break 2020 — when the World shut-down. Our booked vacation rental (thankfully) offered us a full refund, but Copa airlines only offered us a voucher. So, we waited. We watched our children stay-at-home, we watched the Distillery close-down. And then extended due to executive orders by Polis, and then by supply chains drying up for glass bottle resources. 

Our first rescheduling attempt was a direct flight (DIA to PTY) over Thanksgiving; the direct flight was cancelled. One option was keep the dates and fly through DFW (adding another five hours or more because DFW is never a problem -- yes, that's sarcasm) or wait until December to fly direct out of DIA — but the vouchers expired 12.31.2021. Our trip became a Christmas getaway and this time our co-ed could join us — the whole family together!

It was a Long Haul! 

It was a long haul to Playa Vanao, a small resort town in the Gulf of Panama (the Pacific side). One Honda Pilot and six hours after landing, we found our retreat. This, after driving six hours across the Continental Divide (Ouray to Boulder), and a five hour, 11pm red-eye, to arrive at 5am. We stuffed our oldest (and smallest) in the third row, among all our luggage and headed to McDonalds en español. 

Mid-day we arrived to the house located spitting distance from the beach, and an infinity pool which (at least visually) flowed from the patio to the ocean, but first, a nap for all my travelers. 

John, is always the antsy one, was up first and scoping out surfboard rentals and resort restaurants for Christmas Day (three days hence). And the days flowed as follows: 

Feliz Navidad!

Wake up to a sunrise, sweep the floor from the sand and overnight bug-slaughter by well-hidden light traps, breakfast, Panamanian coffee at sea-level temps, and eventually slipping into a swimsuit. Layout, flip, layout, slip into the pool to cool off, layout, watch the iguanas climb the clematis vines, repeat. Lunch, layout, flip. Oh, the kids surfed. Then a beach walk, dinner and an evening of Netflix. I finished two books and polished two of my short stories. 

John, on the other hand, ran into a bloom of jelly-fish larva on the first day. Sounds harmless. The invertebrate eggs will lay in an invisible film on the skin, and when air-dried will irritate into a rough, red rash. Itching will spread the toxins across the body like 1000s of tiny mosquito bites on his thighs, neck, arm- (and knee) pits. John became a Benadryl addict. Limiting himself to the cooling benefits of the pool. Additionally, by day six, he had developed a painful case of swimmers ear. He finally succumbed to a Z-pack of antibiotics and ear drops from the local pharmacia — as the idea of flying and driving back over the unpressurized Divide was untenable. 

Side-Note: John hates to apply sunscreen (and did not). We had a new version of reef-sensitive mineral sunscreen which the kids liberally applied. I do beleive this is what kept them from larval-harms way. 

While not John’s ideal holiday, it was mine (at least for this trip). Even Christmas was heavenly. Since we only had Netflix and Spotify — there was no inundation of holiday ads ad nauseam, Christmas carols or over-stuffed shopping. We bought the kids some local t-shirts (which Santa brought through the beach door (no wrapping paper)). And. that. was. it. 

And it was glorious! 

~~ All I want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan ~~

At some point, my jaw unclenched, my functioning migraine subsided, and my body took a collective sigh. Soon, my thoughts drifted to how and why everything at home is so much harder, darker, and formidable. I could actually feel my stress-weight melting off my body. I was happy, my children were happy, my husband, while miserable, was happy that he, too, was “away.” 

On our last day of rested bliss, we took a morning walk to look at beach property (for sale -- we do this just about everywhere we go), and innocently swimming thier arms through the sand was a new born sea-turtle -- the clutch long gone. We tried not to intervene, but the little underwater surfer was so very tired, each wave pushed and tumbled the shelled-reptile back to shore. So, very gingerly, John scooped-up the mound of wet sand beneath its body and released the whole bundle past the waves. 

Paddle, paddle, little grom. 

I don’t know if this trip will transform my inner-joy forever more. But, maybe, hopefully, I have hit a reset button on my mind and physical health that has been maltreated for a long while. 

Christmas Globe in Venao Cove
                                                        by Marcy S. Wood

Embraced in a cove of palm tree arms, 
surrendered to a playa for play,
a dome of tranquil humidity
embalms our getaway. 

Feliz Navidad 
fragile globe of sand and surfboards, 
sunburnt bottoms and seashell remains

A boss girl in greek letters
A senior drinking legal
A boy with toes on the nose
     A fleeting life of young adults.
A man gazing through readers, politico in hand
A woman thankful to be away from her every day. 

Tomorrow will bring new sweethearts, 
a strand accession,
the pitter of grand got children —
too precious for a world gone hot.

Today, the cool pool is loved by siren grackles
and dancing sandpipers,
leathered iguanas and dragonfly fodder.
Basking at infinity’s end, 

A memory of the past captured under glass.