Saturday, July 18, 2009

And the clock strikes midnight

"I've fallen in love, it's true love!"
"It's not love, but she's pregnant..."
"No love at all, it's a multi-million job offer"
"I'm going to work for the CIA"
"I've got a favor to do for my new Colombian 'friends'"
"It's just sun stroke - don't judge me!"
"I'm going to the moon!"

It was explained, in no uncertain terms, to me that there just had to be a reason why I was choosing to come back early - just saying 'I'll be home tomorrow,' apparently didn't suffice, so I figured the best I could do for my concerned parents was to come up with some reasons... So they got the above and I got a new way to start a blog post about coming home.

It had really all started back on board the Invicta, the sail boat that was taking me from Cartagena to Panama. Flo was complaining that she'd be going back home soon, but she felt there was an upside to it - getting back to your routine. Routine? Routine!? As in getting up in the morning and going to work? I certainly don't miss any routine... But she really meant the routine of seeing your friends and having a chance to do the things you used to always do with them. I still refused to refer this as a routine, but the thought stuck.

Four days later, after sailing through the picturesque San Blas archipelago on Panama's Caribbean coast, my brain was still refusing to abandon the thought.

The pristine palm tree covered, sandy beaches of the San Blas islands. Absolutely in no way contributing to wanting to go home... More on the sail here in a later post

Panama City confirmed that getting down to Ecuador, as I had originally hoped, was difficult by boat (Pacific storm season coming on) or expensive by plane. And the flights to LA were not expensive. And it had now been 19 months since I had started... and it was getting a bit less exciting... So by Thursday afternoon, I had a Friday morning flight booked to LA.

Being on the plane feels strange. Panama speaks a lot of English, but on the plane, nearly all the passengers are speaking English. The announcements are in English, then somewhat reluctantly repeated in Spanish. In front of me, there's a guy wearing a hunting t-shirt... Behind me, is three guys, probably brothers, dressed in fishing-themed apparel. I hear one of them state somewhat apologetically to another passenger that "we are loud." I have some suggestions on the matter in the back of my head, but it seems far better to keep them to myself. Welcome to American... Texan culture - my Continental flight to LA goes through Houston. I wonder if there are any Europeans on the plane, for whom Texas will be the first port of call in the US?

In spite the nagging feeling in the back of my mind of 'why the hell are you doing this,' I arrived in LA by the end of the day. My bag arrived on the next flight a couple of hours later - better late than never, I suppose... And after nearly 19 months of traveling (well, including three brief trips home in the process), 53 different countries visited, and an inordinate number of fascinating places seen and interesting people met, I was back home in the States, without any immediate plans to be leaving again. Well, maybe at the end of the year... definitely still needing to get to Africa, the Galapagos, and Easter Island!

Let's not leave you here without a few pictures, first off, Panama City:

The Cathedral, but of course

Around Plaza Catedral

The new look of Panama City

The old and the new mixing together

And this statue just confounded me, so, naturally, I took a picture

But the biggest attraction of Panama is undoubtedly the Canal, so headed off to the visitor center at the Miraflores locks 20 minutes outside of town. Getting there onboard a crowded, psychedelically painted former American school bus. Ever wanted to know where school buses go to die? Central America!

The Miraflores locks

It's one of the three sets of locks on the Canal, allowing safe passage between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean

Over 30 ships transit the Canal daily, spending about 30 minutes in the locks, which help equalize the water levels.

And then it was on to San Diego, which, actually, was every bit as picturesque as a lot of the places I had just seen... and I had friends along up here:

Irina, myself, and Nata at the end of a pier in Pacific Beach

San Diego's Pacific Beach

Looking out onto the ocean from Pacific Beach. I'd point out the odd lack of guys trying to sell crap to all the tourists on the beach - it's so no Cartagena!

The sunsets are beautiful here too though!

So, what happens now, you might wonder? Well, I haven't entirely decided yet. Even though I'm counting December 24, 2007 as the official start of the trip - the day when I left Los Angeles, I'm not holding it officially over until I get back to Seattle, which will probably be in a few weeks. And I'm sure there'll be blog-worthy shenanigans along the way. And once there, the blog will certainly still live on, while I figure out what I want to do with myself, while trying to figure out ways to get to Africa, the Galapagos, and beyond!

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