Saturday, January 8, 2011


On Saturday morning January 8th Jose picked us up from the inn and deposited us at the Albrook regional airport.  I had made a reservation on-line for Air Panama's 9:00 am flight to David.  David is the closest airport to Boquete, about a half-hour drive away.

The terminal was packed - not a good sign.  A huge tour group was just unloading from a bus.  I managed to barge up to a desk agent ahead of the tour director, because I had the dogs with me in their kennels and didn't want to wait a long time.

Air Panama didn't have any record of my reservation!  They said it was because I hadn't paid for it, and I tried to explain that I couldn't figure out how to pay for it on their website.  The flight was full because of the tour group.

"When's the next flight to David?" I asked, getting very worried.,

"There is only one more flight today, at 4:00," said the desk agent.  I quickly paid for a ticket on that flight. It was now 8:00.  An 8-hour wait with the dogs loomed ahead.


Jose had already left, the battery on my cell phone was dead, and in any case I had forgotten to activate the global networking.  For a few minutes I was purely panicked.

I noticed an electrical outlet and plugged in my cell phone and laptop, hoping to get them charged enough to be able to contact someone.  I was able to send e-mails to my friend who was planning to meet me in David, telling her I was not on the 9:00 flight as planned, and later confirming that I was on the 4:00 pm flight.

Eight hours of waiting in the Air Panama terminal with the dogs.  I decided to make the best of it by observing the people and their conversations.

There were many Kuna women and children waiting with me.  The Kuna are one of the indigenous tribes in Panama, who live north of Panama City on a comargue (reservation).  Many tour groups visit them, as they are the closest to the capital.  I was fascinated by the women's beautiful costumes:
They make elaborate embroidered and cutwork squares called Molas, which form the bottom of their blouses:
A Typical Mola
Tourists buy these Molas for artwork and purses. Then they add coordinating fabric for the top and sleeves.They wear patterned red and yellow cotton scarves, either tied or loose over their heads.  Their skirts are patterned fabric tied around their wastes.

They have complex beaded leggings, which evidently are sewn directly onto their legs because I can't fathom how they could be removed:
Kuna Leggings
Some of the Kuna women are very small, about four feet tall.  I later learned that they are among the smallest people in the world, along with the African Pygmies.

It was incongruent to see some of the women and especially their daughters talking on cell phones.  More importantly, all of the children I saw wore modern dress and were indistinuishable from their Panamanian counterparts.  I felt a twinge of sadness that this colorful lifeway is rapidly disappearing now that travel and communications are so easy.

Such is progress.


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