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Faraway Travels ~ Day 1 (June 13th, 2009)

July 1, 2009

DCP_3248 Well, actually, the first night. I was so nervous the whole time in the airplane! I had my Spanish-English dictionary and a book on Spanish verbs with me and read them the whole 3 hours and 45 minutes or so that it took to arrive. I knew when we landed that there was nothing more I could do now; I just had to trust God.

It was a funny feeling, to look out that airplane window and see the city lights twinkling… a place I had lived so long ago. Talk about déjà vu. I was nervous as I got my things together and walked out of the plane. I wasn’t sure where I would be picked up, or even who it was that would meet me!

I'm not sure if you can see the city lights twinkling through the airplane window...

I'm not sure if you can see the city lights twinkling through the airplane window...

When I didn’t see anyone I recognized at the gate, I followed people that I recognized from my flight, hoping they would know where to go. As I walked down the corridor, I found signs for Customs and Restrooms. The latter being a more urgent need, I ended up at the end of the line for Customs, and had to wait a very long time, praying and worrying. (I hadn’t seen anyone yet) I finally made it through customs (an HOUR after landing) and then wandered aimlessly for a few minutes. I wasn’t seeing anyone and was starting to freak out…. after all, wasn’t someone supposed to have met me by now? I finally decided to go through the baggage check and out the only visible doors, that looked as though they led outside. I was thankfully surprised to find that the doors actually led to an outer room where TONS of people were meeting passengers. Some had signs with names on them, some had cameras. I looked around and had to keep walking to move around people. Then I turned to the left and saw Raquel and Josue! I was so relieved.

It was pretty amazing. I felt almost unreal… the whole time before the trip, it never felt real that I was actually going. Even in the plane, I was just apprehensive, but had no idea what I would find when I arrived. I don’t even know what I was expecting. But now, whether it felt real or not, it most certainly was! I couldn’t believe I was actually in Panama, giving a hug to Raquel and Josue! I followed them out where Eli (pronounced ELL-ee) was waiting with the car. Josue took my bag and put it in the trunk while I climbed in the front seat and hugged Eli.

Then I think the shock set it, and I froze. They were talking in Spanish…. and I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I could’ve started crying, and just prayed, Lord! Help me!!! I was upset at myself that I wasn’t quite as well-prepared as I’d hoped. Eli asked me a question that I couldn’t understand, and my one-word reply was an apologetic  ‘Despacio…’ (‘slower’) Josue chuckled and I had to laugh at myself. She smiled understandingly and told me I could speak in English with her. I found out in the next day or so how incredibly fluent she was in English! I was so thankful to her and for her, but I still felt awful. I really wished I could speak in Spanish. And I know they wanted to talk, and had questions. But I made it a very awkward ride, my mind crowded with thoughts and over-analyzations. All I could think was I wish I could speak Spanish with them, why couldn’t I just talk normally, why was I having to make it such an awkward ride with everyone? I was horribly silent and just wished I could disappear. I’m already very shy with other people (outside immediate family), and with a different language, I just froze. I felt horribly ungrateful.

But they were wonderful. Along the way, I would pay attention outside every once in a while (even though it was already dark) and watch the city lights and buildings. I still couldn’t believe I was there, actually IN Panama City. They drove around a little bit, showing me different landmark buildings, etc. Then we drove along this beautiful bit of road called ‘The Causeway’. It’s a curvy sort of road that runs through the ocean to different inlets and such. It has sidewalks and benches, plenty of palm trees and ocean breezes, and many restaurants. Even in the dark I could tell it was beautiful and could almost hear the waves crashing on either side of us. DCP_3254

DCP_3253Along the way, they took me to dinner at Bennigan’s Grill and Pub, where we met a friend of Eli’s named Eddie, and his girlfriend. I got a salmon caesar salad ->

It was still very awkward for me, but having other people there to carry on a conversation definitely took off some pressure. I was definitely starting to feel the jet lag, though; I started zoning out, and Josue asked me if I was sleepy. That was a definite yes. He also asked if I missed Mom and the kids. That was also a yes. It was nice that he could see that, and thus, maybe they understood more of my quietness than I thought. When we were done, I couldn’t finish any more of my meal (it may not look like it, but that plate was huge!!) so we put it in a take-home bag. (I never saw it after that, so hopefully someone put it to good use!)

DCP_3250As we took our leave, a new custom registered in my mind. Whenever greeting someone or saying goodbye to someone that isn’t family or close friends, you always greet/leave each other with a ‘side kiss’ (an almost kiss on the cheek). Then we got back in the car and headed home. I was so tired… When we finally got home, it was around 1 in the morning. Josue took my bag in and I found that I would be sharing a room with Eli. I took one of the twin beds and she had the other. Then I got to say hi to Tia (Gina). After finding out that I’d had no signal on my phone (I discovered that when I got off the plane), they offered for me to call Mom on their phone, to let her know that I’d arrived safely since I knew she didn’t have internet yet. I called, but there was no answer. So I left a message, got on the computer and sent an email anyways, and went to bed. It was so nice to snuggle up under the covers and drift into dreamless sleep, away from all the anxiety, over-analytical thoughts, and apprehension. I’d prayed the whole time since I got off the plane, and all I could do was trust God and see what happened over the next 2 weeks; I knew He’d brought me there for a reason.

And don’t worry. It gets better and not quite so awkward as the week went on. 🙂 More later!

~Riley Tea

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    July 2, 2009 3:14 am

    Hi dear heart! It’s a pleasure to read your entries. I love the detail you put into each one. Beautiful job so far! I’ll be checking in on your blog again soon.

    Love you,

    Mama 🙂

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