Thanks, Mom

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!


Today we spent the morning at the Canal Zone. Fifty years later, I still remember the first time I watched a big ship go through the locks. It was just as impressive today as it was then.

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.




  • Annie Gillespie
    Posted at 12:13h, 19 January

    Great post, Lisa. You write so eloquently. Know you and Michele are having a wonderful time.

  • lisaweldon
    Posted at 18:28h, 19 January

    Oh, Annie, thank you! It’s easy when there’s so much to write about…and there’s plenty here.

  • Jane K.
    Posted at 08:53h, 20 January

    Great story. Your mom really was a trooper!
    It’s fun being there with you vicariously. Your descriptions are so visual.
    I think every day, where are we headed next?

  • lisaweldon
    Posted at 20:07h, 20 January

    oh, Jane, you and Craig MUST come here. Y’all would love this place!

  • Michael Jett
    Posted at 17:57h, 21 January

    Lisa, we are good friends of Rusty and Kim Bolton. I’m Mike Jett and my wife is Page. Kim told us about your adventures, and your recent trip to Panama. I was wondering if you were going out to Pedasi which I hear is just starting to appeal to expats. If you do, would you post a blog and let us know what you think. Hope to talk with you soon and safe travels.

  • lisaweldon
    Posted at 14:21h, 24 January

    Mike, unfortunately we did not go to Pedasi nor that area at all. But we spent three days in Boquete which is full of expats. We had drinks one evening with one couple who told us all about life here. Seems very easy to purchase property, strong economy, stable government, and of course, they use the US dollar. I’m sure you probably know the requirements to live here as a retiree. Would love to get together after I get back and share my experience.

    • Michael Jett
      Posted at 17:14h, 24 January


      That sounds great. We live at Lake Nantahala which is about 2.5 hours from Atlanta. We are in Atlanta often, and see Rusty & Kim on a regular basis. Whenever your schedule allows, lets see if we can get together. Would love meeting you and learning more about your travels.

      We know of a couple that has lived in Boquete for several years, but recently decided to move back to the US. Not sure why, as we are not in direct contact with them, as we met them through mutual friends.

      Thanks for replying, and look forward to meeting you when your schedule allows.