When my father announced to my mother that he’d received orders for El Salvador, her first question was, “Where in the world is THAT?”
Just picture this: It’s 1958 and you’ve just been told you have to pack up your 2-year-old and 5-year-old daughters and take them to some God-forsaken country where they’ll have to live for three years. The natives don’t speak English. It is before internet or email. And even international phone calls are prohibitively expensive so calling family is not an option. Oh, and no trips back home.
Your eldest child would start her education in a third-world country. And your 2-year-old would surely contract some strange tropical disease because of her tender age.
The news must have been horrifying, especially to a 28-year-old mother.
Today, as our taxi drove us through the “old neighborhood” of Balboa, I was overwhelmed by the visual memories that flooded in.
These 2,150 acres, once the US military base known as Fort Clayton, now house Knowledge City, a complex of schools and research institutions. Many of the old barracks and other structures still remain intact from 1958. This is where my father landed when flying into Panamá. It’s here that I remember coming to the doctor, and where my Mother came for the best shopping. Albeit 50 years later, it was great being back.
Yep, my mother didn’t think twice. She packed up our family and off we went on a new adventure. By example she taught me how to open my mind to new cultures and my heart to people different from myself. She instilled in me a curiosity and thirst for new experiences. It’s my mother who I blame for my wanderlust spirit!
Boats go through the locks 24 hours a day. It takes 8-10 minutes to adjust the water levels and 8-10 hours for the boat to complete the entire 51-mile canal trip (water levels between the Pacific and the Atlantic can vary almost 16 feet in height). Entry fees must be paid 48 hours ahead of time. In cash. Read more fun facts about the Canal.
Afterwards we attended an outdoor event, part of a yearlong celebration, on the lawn of the Canal’s Administration Building. They are commemorating the 100th year anniversary of the completion of the Canal. Children helped paint a large banner, with 5,804 contributing in this piece of art.
So, if you’ve ever wondered from whence you came, go back and visit it. As a child we hold only the good memories. And those memories should be revisited and cherished as often as possible.