14 January 2009 | Shelter Bay Marina, Panama
Monique & Tom
Holidays on Zen seem to be never ending, like that birthday you celebrate for a month straight. First, the San Blas Islands surrounded us with natural beauty, other families, BBQs and even a special delivery from Santa. Saying goodbye to folks we might never see again...or at least not in the foreseeable future, was tough and teary. More holiday cheer was found on New Years Eve, spending it with pals at our Panama marina. Kids buddied up with two terrific girls on Chewbacca and learned about their pet, Pippin, a 3-toed-sloth they rescued. After a 3 hour ride from our marina in Colon to the airport in Panama City, and a short flight to Orlando, we climbed off the jet in the UNITED STATES! Wow, signs in English, common currency and layers upon layers of homeland security. Hugs from my mom, who met us at the airport, was filled with a flurry of questions, more hugs, kids talking all at the same time, more hugs and then a few more for good measure. Yes, we were really in the US, that's a gift unto itself. When we arrived at my mom's in Vero Beach, Tommy's mom was waiting up for us, but our dog, Harley was sacked out. Again, we went through the same hugging procedure, but this time with some added licks from Harls. It was past 3 am when we all finally collapsed. Next day we added my brother and his whole clan to our Florida caravan. The kids loved being with their cousins and telling stories of their life afloat. You name it, we bought it in Florida. Our "must have" lists were long but precise, given that we would be in the remote South Pacific for a long time. It included stuff like Claritin, 100% Deet bug spray, ink for the printer, and Honda spark plugs. The grandmas watched us in amazement as our bedroom floor, which was completely covered with boxes and bags of stuff, was stripped of all packing material, and stowed into luggage. And many thanks goes out to them for granting all the Gift List wishes to the kids. We had many Christmas mornings and lots of glee! Two short days later, we said our goodbyes to family and pet, and boarded a plane to Puerto Rico to see our friends.
We were greeted at the resort by our final holiday gift, The Barkman Family. And what a gift it was! Seeing Lauren, with only 2 more months of leukemia treatments left, running and playing non-stop was fantastic. She easily kept up with the gang. Every night the kids planned who would sleep in who's room. They literally attached themselves to one another from the moment we arrived until the final moment of the trip. There was a water park, a private island w/beautiful beaches, pizza and a movie night, and tons and tons of laughter. To see the B-Band together again was a gift to us parents. We'd frequently just stop and smile while watching the 4 of them goof off together. October '09, upon reaching New Zealand, will be the earliest we'll see our family and friends again. It was hard to leave the freedom, the familiar language and the warmth of loved ones, however, our dream is only halfway completed and there's still so much to share as a family onboard Zen.
Every piece of luggage safely arrived in Panama City, including the new fishing spear gun Tommy so covets for the Pacific waters. Our taxi driver loaded our bags of booty and flew, no exaggeration...we agreed, our taxi van was airborne at least 10% of the time, cutting a 3 hour ride to a 2 hour ride. Welcome back to the craziness of Panama, the wonderful tropical weather, and our close-knit life on Zen. And that's a gift we are all happy to keep unwrapping. Having cut the cord to land-life over 7 months ago, we would never have appreciated our home country and loved ones as intensely as we did over the past 10 days. Onward to Costa Rica and the Panama Canal, amazing encounters for sure.