A Travellerspoint blog

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Welcome to our blog

On the eve of our big world adventure, we unveil our new travel blog! Tomorrow we fly to Panama--our first stop on a world tour that puts us on the road for 4 of the next 6 months.

First, the stats.

Three separate trips:
1. Starting tomorrow--Panama!
2. January - March: New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore
3. April - May: Turkey, Italy, France, England

Each of us will be traveling more than 64,000 miles--the equivalent of circling the earth 2.6 times! (That's a lot of goldfish crackers and potty breaks.)

For the past 8 years, we have dreamed of taking our family on an extended trip to see the world. Until now, work schedules, school, and family obligations have prevented us from realizing our dream.

Now is the perfect time. Henry is in his final year of homeschooling before he starts public high school. Pearl is young enough to miss school but mature enough to handle lengthy trips (we hope). And everyone in our extended family is healthy.

Some of you may wonder: Why Panama?

It is on Henry’s bucket list. To describe Henry as an avid young birder is not really doing him justice. Henry LIVES for birds. We will be spending the next two weeks slogging through the rainforests, western highlands, and Caribbean islands of Panama in search of the elusive Resplendent Quetzal!

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Posted by skwclar 19:01 Archived in USA Comments (20)

¡Panama!

overcast 85 °F

We made it to Panama safe and sound after a gloriously uneventful flight. Dave and Pearl were unexpectedly bumped up to Business class while Sue tortured Henry back in Economy with 5 hours of algebra. Being Pearl's seat mate involved playing endless hands of "Too Many Monkeys" card game, pillow fluffing for her ladyship, and fetching fallen markers. (Will someone please invent marker on a rope?)

Many thanks to the Hoffman family for recommending the Radisson Summit hotel 10 miles away from Panama City along the canal zone. From our room, we're enjoying great views of the rainforest treetops twittering with bird activity. Henry has already spotted a Crimson Backed Tanager, Magnificent Frigatebird, and Social Flycatcher. This is a case of the student teaching the teacher.

After a little birding around the hotel's jungle-like grounds (Dave has been incessantly whistling the theme music from Jurassic Park) and swimming in the pool, we are calling it an early night. Tonight is the first trial of Henry and Pearl sharing a queen-size bed. Let's hope that the pillow Berlin wall that we've built will keep the peace. There are 105 nights on the road ahead of us...

Big plans for tomorrow!

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Posted by skwclar 17:12 Archived in Panama Comments (2)

How can a ship climb a mountain?

semi-overcast 90 °F

Rather than going into great detail about all of the terrific birding today, please visit Henry's birdwatching blog. http://worldbirding.travellerspoint.com/

The answer to the question: The Panama Canal!

We spent our morning admiring the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal and watching ships pass through on their 50-mile voyage toward the Atlantic Ocean. Dave and Sue were probably the most interested in the canal. After sitting through Mom's long (boring) explanation of how the locks work, Henry said with a far-off look in his eyes, "Look... it's a Brown Pelican." Pearl relished her role as junior family photographer. She is an expert at photos from her perspective. Prepare yourselves for tons of photos of Dave and Sue's butts.

Seriously though, the canal and the locks were a marvel to see in action. Dave enjoyed reminiscing about his parents' cruise through the Panama Canal circa 1975 and the endless family movies he was forced to sit through. Sue thought about her dad and how much he would have enjoyed joining us on this trip and seeing the locks in action.

In the afternoon Sue, Dave, and Henry presented a concert at an orphanage in Panama City. We performed for 50 elementary school age children from the "Hogar San José de Malambo." The kids were friendly, lovable, and well-cared for. They were extremely inquisitive about us and our instruments. Though our family doesn't speak much Spanish, we were able to communicate with them via a translator during our concert of dixieland, ragtime, folk, and classical music. Some of the brass instrument terminology was lost in translation, but all was made clear when Dave whipped out his garden hose horn and played a rousing "Pop Goes the Weasel" before segueing into a sleepy and restless-audience rendition of the Saint-Saens Romance on his recently neglected French horn. Henry is particularly wonderful with the kids. They look up to him, and they LOVED the fact that he played jazz trumpet.

At the end of the concert, the workers and nuns were so sweet. It was an honor to spend a few hours at the orphanage. Afterwards, we were led on a tour of the grounds. The orphanage houses 130 children through age 18--including some special needs and HIV positive kids. Hogar San José de Malambo is a place that none of us will easily forget. The smiling eager faces of the children. The lovely sisters. It was a meaningful afternoon. We were especially proud of Pearl who joined the kids in the audience without any encouragement from us, and for her bravery after the concert when she was literally mobbed by the children.

Watching ships go through the Panama Canal

Watching ships go through the Panama Canal

Ship from Guangzhou, China goes through the Miraflores Locks

Ship from Guangzhou, China goes through the Miraflores Locks

Henry, doing what he loves best

Henry, doing what he loves best

Practicing for the concert at the orphanage

Practicing for the concert at the orphanage

At the orphanage gate

At the orphanage gate

Posted by skwclar 13:03 Archived in Panama Comments (4)

Birding all day long

sunny 92 °F

Today was a huge day of birding--13 hours to be exact. (We don't know how Pearl kept herself pulled together.)

At 5:45am, our guide Mario met us at our hotel and drove us all over the Gamboa region of Panama. First we spent 5 hours at the Rainforest Discovery Center. The Center is located in the heart of the rainforest with several miles of trails and a 40-meter observation tower that placed us right above the canopy so we could watch the birding activity increase as the sun rose. It was phenomenal. Some of the more common birds we spotted were toucans and parrots, but there were many birds that we'd never heard of before too.

Later in the day, Mario took us to his secret birding spots, sometimes bushwacking through tropical undergrowth, sometimes tromping through sucking mud. "Crocodile-bait" Pearl hung back with Mom or Dad when the going got tough.

After an early evening sampling of Panamanian ceviche and a walking tour through historical colonial Panama, Mario deposited us back to our hotel.

If you ever need a guide while visiting Panama, please ask us for Mario's contact information. He was fantastic! He and Henry enjoyed talking bird for the entire day. Henry spotted 85 species in all, 46 life birds today!

At the top of the observation tower as the sun rose and the fog lifted

At the top of the observation tower as the sun rose and the fog lifted

Henry's two favorite photos of the day:
Violet-headed Hummingbird

Violet-headed Hummingbird

Slaty-tailed Trogon

Slaty-tailed Trogon

Celebratory ice cream with our guide Mario

Celebratory ice cream with our guide Mario

Posted by skwclar 17:19 Archived in Panama Comments (2)

Thanksgiving Pizza

rain 74 °F

Today we said goodbye to Panama City and hello to Boquete. We took a very short domestic flight on the appropriately under-rated Air Panama, an airline that will be hard to forget. The customer service agent who checked us in seemed to have apprenticed at Aeroflot based on her gruff mannerisms and lack of hustle. Computer technology must still be a few years off as everything was accomplished using color-coded cardboard paper and a sharpie.

Today has been a recovery day for us after some very full days in Panama City. Long naps were enjoyed by all this afternoon once we settled into our lovely 2 bedroom suite located on the lower level of a mansion with a great view of Volcan Baru. Later, the kids did some homeschool work on account of the rain. Rather than describing or showing photos of this charming place worthy of House Hunters International, we'll mention that the owners love their dogs, and we have included some unauthorized photos of their art which is everywhere.

The General, a decorated war hero?

The General, a decorated war hero?


Mr. Sad Eyes (hanging right over our bed)

Mr. Sad Eyes (hanging right over our bed)

We'll be staying here for 5 nights, so let us know if you'd like more dog photos. Happy to oblige.

Boquete is one of the top destinations in Panama due to its proximity to the national park and temperate climate and is a favorite choice for American retirees. While waiting for our luggage today at the airport in Davíd, one expat who moved to Boquete bragged that she and her husband live comfortably on social security benefits and enjoy paying NO REAL ESTATE TAXES on their brand new home for the first 20 years. Hmm...

Our Thanksgiving Dinner was at a local pizza parlor. The clean up afterwards was something for which to be very thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Posted by skwclar 17:53 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

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