So as most of you know we have just arrived back from Panama to get Jacob and the kids’ passports stamped. We were blessed to find out 2 weeks ago that a group from ILE (the language school that we attended last year) was leaving this past weekend for Panama and we could join them. The trip would cost us $115 per person, except Sophia, she was free! It included a private bus trip, hotel stay and breakfast. That was by far the cheapest and safest route for us. The problem was that it was to Bocas del Toro – the place that we went in 2008 for this same process and, to put it nicely, was probably the worst trip we have ever been on. This was the last place we wanted to go and yet it seemed that this was the answer to our prayers, so we agreed to go with the ILE group.
We woke up at 4am and set off at 4:30 to be at the bus by 5:30am and also drop the car off at the Leckie’s house. Francisco stayed at our house while we were gone to keep Zorro and be a body in the house, so he had come the night before. As we were walking to the bus and turned the corner to the street it was on and saw the bus – it was this beautiful, private bus!! We were starting off on a fantastic foot! We set off through San Jose and on our way towards Limon we went through beautiful rainforest. We stopped for breakfast which the tour guide from ILE decided to pay $3 towards the cost of each person and again she arranged for Sophia to be free, so we had breakfast for $3 each! What a blessing. Then we were back in the bus for the remainder of the trip. We arrived at the border and all got off the bus to have our passports stamped – we were praying the whole time that we would not have any problems – Jacob and the kids’ passports were 3 days past the 90 day limit!! Well, I guess because we were in such a big group, the guy at the border did not even glance at our entrance stamps!! Praise the Lord! Now, with that over, we had the dreaded walk across the 100 year old bridge! Jacob, Kelsey and I each had one child and started off. Well, to our surprise it seems that they have worked on the bridge since we crossed it in 2008 and there was actually enough boards to walk a straight path without feeling like one of the kids were going to plummet into the raging river below! As we made it across it seems the temperature went up about a billion degrees!! It is hot in Panama!! We are used to it rarely getting about 70 at our house in Boqueron and it must have been at least 100 in Panama! The kids did great though and we were definitely happy to have our stamps on the Panama side and to be back on the air-conditioned luxury bus!! So we were then off to the water taxi place. We had to ride through some pretty poor places in Panama. It is always sad to see the living conditions of some people and here we were in this awesome bus and we had no rooms for complaints. It is in these times that we certainly see God’s blessing and realize we have no room for any complaints. We all loaded up in the water taxis, which by the way are no more than speed boats with rows of seats, and took off toward the island of Bocas del Torro. Again, we passed people living on the edge of the water whose living conditions just broke your heart. After we were hurled towards Bocas for about 40 minutes, we arrived and walked to the hotel. We were hot and sweaty, ready to get to our room and get to supper. When we got to the room we were assigned, it was a single bed and a double bed. Clearly 6 adults and 3 children were not going to fit in this room. So I went to talk to Nina – the group leader – and the only other room available was next door and it was just a double. So we agreed to make that work. Jacob and I in one room and Kelsey braved the other room with all of the kids 🙂 What a trooper she is by the way!! We were so thankful that she went along with us for this adventure!! We then headed off for supper and then came back and went to sleep by like 7:30!!
We woke up on Saturday with no expectations for the day except to be hot! Well, while we were eating breakfast, Nina came and said that she had arranged a tour for the whole group. We were thinking we could not do a tour because they are normally $20 per person and now we are being told that we are going to be getting back in the boats and going to see dolphins, swim on a private beach and then go to another private beach where we can see a ton of starfish! And all of that was going to be paid for by the money that was collected to pay for the trip! It was quite a surprise and we were so excited! We had a fantastic time and were so amazed at God’s provision for our family. The kids got to see dolphins and starfish and play in a safe quiet beach. The tour lasted from 9:30am to 4:30pm! It was such an unexpected treat!
We woke up Sunday to another great breakfast and then had a worship service together on the dock/restaurant on the water connected to the hotel! Then headed back towards the border and Costa Rica around 11:45am. We went through the Panama border easily and then I had Benja, Kelsey carried Sophia on her back and Jacob had Lizzie and we crossed the bridge. On a funny note, our bus decided to cross the bridge after we had started across and after our “adventure” doing this in 2008, we were not about to try to move over to the side and let him pass us. Jacob looked back and he said that it was like the ball chasing Indiana Jones! I refused to look back and just kept going. Once we got over to the CR side I stepped off and looked back at Jacob and Kelsey and it was kind of funny to see this huge tour bus looming over their shoulders!! Back at the CR side we again were praying that nothing would happen with our stamps and guess what….when they guy went to pick up Jacob’s the phone rang…it distracted him and he again did not hardly look at anything and just kept stamping away!! Praise the Lord!! So we got back on the bus and headed back to San Jose/San Francisco. We arrived back at our house around 8:30 or so.
I cannot say enough what a blessing it was to go with the group from ILE. They welcomed us and loved our kids. On another funny note, we got to see Sophia (our 4 year old) come out of her own little shell and into her personality more. She has always been friendly with most people and loves to make new friends. But she had to have met and had a conversation with everyone that she met from the ILE group. They might not have known our names, but they knew we were Sophia’s parents! She said at one point, “Mommy, all of these people are my friends. They like me and talk to me and want to be my friend.” Who cannot love Sophia or Lizzie or Benja? All three were such troopers and did wonderfully the whole time! God has blessed us with such amazing children!! And we are also so thankful for Kelsey! She was such a blessing to have along as well! I asked her, if we ever have to do this again, would she please fly down and go with us? LOL! 🙂 We are also so thankful for your prayers! God was so wonderful to us throughout this trip! Here are some pictures! Enjoy!