The hotel reminds me of a fortress hive. Nothing is easy – at least when unloading 12 suitcases. There is only one entrance that goes through the lobby that connects to a long hallway that leads to the inner corridor of rooms. It takes several trips to fully unload. Again through the long hallway, then through the hotel entrance, around to the parking lot. Repeat infinitum. It's the day’s exercise.
There’s a landing strip right next to the hotel.
In the dining room, a spaghetti buffet looks strangely appetizing underneath the artificial light. It’s served by a Costa Rican wait staff to a predominately Russian speaking clientele. I love the sound of Russian, the language of Zhivago. There’s a man, he’s pushing the plate forward for more spaghetti and sauce. A woman shakes her head, as if to say, this is too much, I’m on a diet. Some are grabbing the red fruit cups and brown tamarindo drink before they have even started their main course. Many eat holding a cell phone. Do they taste the food they are eating, I wonder?
Flights to Golifto from Moscow are readily found.
The world is small.
The morning we leave for the Panamian border, I’m overcome with anxiety – the same kind that suddenly erupts at every border crossing. It’s a mixture of the wearisome wear from a hot daylong drive followed by a restless night’s sleep. 2 days waking up by alarm and the mind takes full control. It begins to live in the land of past and future. Worrying about what will happen, what can go wrong. Long internal dialogues and thoughts inundate the mind: long lines, the hustlers, the expeditors that lurch, the fear of quarantine (we don’t have the all the paperwork for the dogs on the Panamanian leg of the trip).
I make my way to the dining room.
In the morning light, there is none of last night’s spaghetti frenzy. It feels strangely open and fresh. I prepare myself for the mystery ahead.
From the light, I see the shape of a man. He walks toward me. I can piece together a white mustache, a simple cotton shirt and pants. And then his face. He looks like my grandfather – a reincarnated version with darker skin. I don’t remember seeing him the night before.
“Buenos Dias. Que the vaya bien. Good morning. I hope all goes well for you.” He says.
My mouth probably gaping by now, I quickly thank him and wish him a good day. Before every journey, I ask my grandfather’s spirit to come with me. I ask for his guidance and protection.
That simple unexpected exchange and I feel as light as feathers floating. I am overcome by love. I share with the boy the encounter with the mustache man.
After breakfast, we walk back to the room to start the whole car loading tedium.
The man with the white mustache appears.
“Good morning. I hope all goes well for you.”
And like that, the energy radiates - now 2 beings are buzzing with lightness and love.
From the car, Cedric heads back for the last round of suitcases.
In the hallway, he encounters the man with the white mustache.
“Would you like any help?”
Cedric shakes his head with a smile.
“Ok, I hope all goes well for you.” He says as he disappears into the corridor.
Later at the border, we don’t encounter any of the worrisome troubles we’d expected. It takes an hour to cross into Panama. A breeze. The shortest time so far for us was in Guatemala (30 mins). And the missing paperwork for the dogs? As I stand in the customs line, a random sighting - a basset hound strolls leashlessly, leisurely pass me into the gates beyond which marks the way into Panama. Not so long after, with assurance, the boy tells the customs officer that we have all the health papers for the dogs. The man doesn’t bother to check. And with a simple nod, he waves us to pass.