Two years after immigrating to Canada, I got my first work trip abroad: to Panama. For no particular reason, I had taught myself some rudimentary Spanish in high school and reading a Request for Proposal from the World Bank where all the supporting technical information was in Spanish got me voluntold to prepare for a trip to Panama – with my boss and our subconsulting partners to gather more information to assess the project.

An unexpected part of the preparation was getting vaccinated against Yellow Fever and being given a WHO passport-like thing allowing me to enter Panama (or get back into Canada, maybe) as well as the admonition from my GP “Are you quite sure you want to go there?” when told that ‘where’ was about halfway between oceans and near the Panama Canal.

The journey south was interesting. On Friday afternoon, I was finishing up a few days work at the Thunder Bay water treatment plant. I was standing on the ice on Lake Superior, 30 feet from dry land, contemplating how we could design protection for shore structures from ice. Flew home on a chilly Friday evening, packed on Saturday, and Sunday morning flew to Miami then and switched to a brilliant blue and orange Braniff Airlines (now defunct) plane still business class with metal cutlery, china plates, and generous drinks poured and served in cut glass (anybody remember that?).

Stepping off the plane the heat and humidity hit me – quite different from the very dry, very cold Thunder Bay. After a long, wait for Customs and Immigration, I had my UK passport stamped with great precision so that the Panama entry stamp virtually obliterated the ‘Canada landed immigrant’ stamp. A short taxi ride took us to our ‘home’ for the following week – a Holiday Inn. And as advertised, there were no surprises. The in-room artwork was local but everything else was a near replica of my Holiday Inn room in Thunder Bay earlier in the week except that this was a left-hand room. And the sign in the bathroom was encouraging … El agua de Panamá es la más pura del mundo

The mot du jour is mañana.

And the mot du jour prochaine is mañana.

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