During my final days in Panama, I took it easy and relaxed. I had been enjoying my Spanish classes. The teacher spoke slow enough for us to understand, and he made lessons fun. We walked around the town and often had classes outdoors. I had been placed in the Advanced Beginner class with a nurse from the west coast, a woman from England who would confirm for me that the British accent sounds just as hilarious in Spanish as it does in English, a teenager who had been traveling with a much older man she called her father :-o, and a college slacker that was backpacking with some friends through Central America to surf and take Spanish lessons.
One day I went with a group to the Caldera hot springs. This was a naturally occuring group of springs that was fed warm water from the dormant volcano nearby. It was like a free spa treatment with an outdoor sauna. While there, we noticed a monkey that was freely roaming around. We took pictures and looked on in amazement. We were used to seeing this sort of thing in a zoo behind bars.
Another group of tourists we ran into from England was brave enough to try to make contact with the monkey. I looked on and my blackness kicked in. I started to back up slowly, and within minutes the monkey had reached out to strike the Brit.
As she nursed her wound from where the wild animal had scratched her, I was not surprised. A group of expats hanging around nearby explained that the monkey (whom they referred to by name) was quite mischevous and was known for stealing peoples clothing and other belongings.
Soon after I had taken well over 300 pictures, endured a week of Spanish classes, survived accidentally drinking the local water and my allergies, it was time to go home.
When I made the long trip back to David, and then back to the airport, I was able to ask an employee there where the terminal was to American Airlines. He responded in Spanish, which was a welcome surprise as generally I’ve found people will speak to me in English once they hear my accent.
When I reached my layover in Dallas Forth-Worth, I went through customs and immigration. The customs official greeted me as I filed through the line.
“Welcome home,” he said in his deep, southern accent.
Boy it was good to be back in the USA! This was the most patriotic moment of my life.
I smiled, and out of habit I responded,