Feeling Blissfully in the Flow, In Panama with my Mister

After departing Victoria and a brief lay-over in Toronto, Mister and I were heading to Panama on Air Canada Rouge, a stripped-down airline service where everything from alcohol to food to movies is not only limited, but costly. We’d flown with them before, though, and knew the drill, so at least I had purchased a gluten free sandwich at a kiosk prior to boarding. We also had an iPad, fully charged, with the Air Canada App installed and a splitter so we could enjoy watching a movie together.

Lucky for us it wasn’t a full plane and the extra seat in our row remained vacant when the boarding completed announcement was made. What would have been a cramped and uncomfortable space became bearable. We settled in, watched a well-done documentary titled There’s No Free Lunch, rested and read and soon we were landing.

Peering out the tiny window, my gaze was drawn to the sun peeking out of the clouds and illuminating the impressive coastline dotted with shiny skyscrapers and the sparkling ocean. I could see the forest spreading out in all directions from the city, shade upon shade of green, and I felt excited that I was about to get reacquainted with Panama. I love Panama.

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Panama City Harbour

 

We were staying the first three days in the city, at a condo in the Amador Causeway we’d rented from our friends at Patty’s Casitas. Patty and her husband Rudy greeted us warmly at the buildings entrance and helped us load our massive amount of luggage onto the lift.

The condo was beautifully appointed and pristinely clean, just like the units we’d rented from them in the past in Casco Viejo. They’d left a complimentary bottle of wine so we opened it and toasted our arrival over a glass.

After unpacking our things and freshening up we walked over to a local restaurant Patty had recommended, La Fabrica. We were able to communicate sufficiently to our Spanish speaking server and I ordered the Salmon Marrakesh that was full of flavour and textures. The ambience was friendly, welcoming and relaxing and as we sat under the canopy of a star-filled night we felt content.

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La Fabrica

Our first day started early as we were being picked up by a driver arranged by our lawyer who was taking us to apply for our cedulas, the national identity cards in Panama. We met two Australians in the line-up and engaged in interesting conversations on topics from politics and economics to humanity and health, making the two and half hours fly by quickly.

After our business was taken care of we decided to celebrate our success over lunch at one of our favourite restaurants in the city, La Fragatta. The architecture and interior design created the experience of being on a high-end cruise ship. The well-dressed waiter, who spoke not a word of English, greeted us with professionalism and warmth and directed us to a cozy booth.

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La Fragatta

Mister took the liberty of ordering us a bottle of Catena Malbec, una botella vino tinto por favor. We glanced at the menu, but we were both eying two of the appetizers we’d chosen at our last visit. The cheese plate featured a variety of sharp, tangy cheeses, including a luxurious manchego that was my favourite. The grilled vegetable platter consisted of a variety of delicious delicacies, seasoned and cooked to perfection.

Friday turned out to be Fabulous Friday, as Friday’s often are. We slept in. We took a long stroll along the causeway. We shopped for window coverings, a phenomenal experience with the expertise of Susana at Nostalgia Designs. We refreshed over a light lunch at Paul’s and then did some more house shopping, buying a gorgeous gray leather sectional and stunning floor-length mirror.

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Mister & Me on the Amador Causeway

Back at our condo we indulged in Happy Hour, which turned into happy, happy hour. Feeling like cats and canaries and the day wasn’t even over!

Fabulous Friday concluded with a taxi ride into Casco Viejo for a romantic dinner at Grapes. We walked into a cozy space with inviting décor. The tables were dark wood with chairs upholstered in crème leather. The side wall featured an impressive wooden built-in wine fridge. Black chandeliers of intricate design hung from the ceiling, and although not to my taste, suited the space.

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Me & Mister outside Grapes, with a view of downtown Panama

Our server was pleasant and very professional. When he informed us the bottle of wine we’d requested was out of stock, he suggested an alternative, much more expensive Argentinian Malbec. It was one of those wines where the first sip is alluring but with each taste grows more and more pleasing on the palate.

We decided to go all in with three courses. I started with the corvina ceviche, a local favourite dish, whilst Mister savored the trio of tacos. For our mains I chose the stuffed chicken breast in a curry mint sauce that was phenomenal. Mister ordered a filet of beef which he reported to be masterfully seasoned and cooked to perfection. For dessert I had the house made crème caramel which danced silkily over my tongue and Mister chose the chocolate brownie. Throughout the two-hour experience we engaged in fluid conversation, easily moving from light to deep topics and I felt blissfully in the flow.

We’d planned to take Saturday off, but then we received a call from our builder. He was requesting we make a trip into Tech and House, our appliance store. I was feeling a little frustrated, but when we arrived to discover the air conditioning at the shop was down and I had a low blood sugar, a little became a little bit more. It hit the ceiling, though, when an accident on the bridge had traffic backed up in every direction downtown and what should have been a ten- minute taxi ride home became two hours.

The next day we packed up and checked out of our casita. Rudy was driving us to Coronado to view our home for the first time since we left in February. It is difficult to describe how it felt, but I’ll try.

Upon entering the house, Mister and I were both impressed right away with how magnificent our floor tiles looked. Stepping into the office immediately to the left, it was barren, with no murphy bed, desk, or bookshelf installed, as requested. Apparently, their carpenter had been unwell.

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Living & Dining Room of our House

We next viewed the bathroom off the office. The large matte tiles were gorgeous and complemented beautifully by the shiny small black mosaic tiles. The granite and sink both looked amazing. But the window was mounted over the sink instead of the toilet, leaving no space for a vanity mirror. The tempered shower glass doors were not installed and the toilet was taped over; plumbing not yet available.

In the kitchen the cabinets looked gorgeous but there were no knobs or handles. The wine fridge and dishwasher were too tall (even though we’d sent the dimensions long before), requiring them to take off the granite counter. Finally, the fridge wasn’t installed because the builder informed us it was also too large for the space provided.

Appliances became an issue once again when we viewed the laundry room, which quite frankly looked horrible. One could barely open the washer and dryer because the hall was so narrow. The walk-in closet was the final disappointment, resembling more of a cave or dungeon.

We went outside and were pleased to discover the completed pool filled with clear, clean water. As a few flies buzzed around me in the heat, I couldn’t help but feel disheartened. I was realizing that there was no way we were going to be able to move in to our home in three days with the amount of work still to be done and I could only hope the condo we’d rented for three days at Coronado Bay would be available for seven more.

Feeling our mixed feelings, we drove to the rental, relieved when the owner assured us that we could have the unit for the duration of our visit. We were even more thrilled when we found out that because it was low season and late in the day, it was only going to cost us $900 for ten days for a one- bedroom, two- bathroom condo right on the beach.

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View from our condo balcony

We didn’t have the energy to cook ourselves dinner so we walked over to our favourite restaurant in Coronado, Luna Rosa. The atmosphere was inviting, and the food was, as always, fabulous. It was one of many more to come in following days, and I felt grateful.

Over the next seven days our schedules were filled with meetings with the builders. They were generous in accommodating us and together we came up with creative solutions to the challenges we’d identified.

There was more shopping in the city, a few good work-outs and yoga practices. All of our packages that we’d ordered from Amazon and Wayfair were stacked in the garage and it was like Christmas as we unpacked and revealed the items we’d purchased. Everything from our dishes to wine glasses looked amazing.

Mister and I shared quality time together, taking advantage of the rooftop pool and ocean access that our rental provided. We ate great food and drank beautiful wine.

As the trip came to an end, I found myself in the same frame of mind I’d been in Canada – grateful to be taking on life’s challenges together as team. Bien equipo. I know in my heart that our home will be perfect when it is all done and that we will both love living in our space, in our happy place; Coronado, Panama.

So yeah, I’m feeling blissfully in the flow, in Panama with my Mister.

Feeling Connected, Celebrating Life and Sharing Stories with Family and Friends

The Grand Ramadan Adventure Mister and I began on May 25 turned out to be such an incredibly epic experience, I’ve decided I need to continue the saga divided into two more blogs. As I sifted through the scrawling notes of my journal and realized I had written 55 pages about our cruise alone, I knew I had some serious paring down to do.

 

In part one I wrote about feeling certain of the depth, breadth and intensity of my love for my family, and that theme continued to the very end of our five- week journey from Vancouver Island back to Riyadh in steps across Canada and including a stop-over in Rome.

 

We flew out of Victoria airport on May 31, our destination Calgary. We were staying at my brother and sister-in-law’s home and I was looking forward to catching up. Doug and Laura had to work and Matthew had school but we still managed to make time in the evenings for deep discussions as well as some family fun, playing games and watching one of the Pirate movies. We had planned a dinner party that included my sister but her boyfriend gifted her with surprise tickets to the Faith Hill concert. We met up with a dear friend of mine from the days when I lived in Calgary and it was wonderful to hear her sounding full of positivity. Then on Saturday morning it was time to go with big bear hugs and traditional nose kisses goodbye.

 

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Calgary Peeps

 

Winnipeg was our next stop, home to Mister’s Mom and Dad. One of Mister’s brother’s lives just outside the city and another brother in Brandon made the drive with his large family to join in the fun. The highlight of our trip was a family backyard barbeque and pool party. It was a treat to witness how much the kids had grown and changed since our last visit and to catch up. My Aunt Linda and Uncle Ned hosted a family dinner too, and it was a wonderful opportunity to connect with my dad’s side of the family. We engaged in a variety of activities with Mom and Dad: pickle ball, lawn bowling, cribbage, and a scenic city walk. We exchanged stories of our lives in Saudi Arabia and our families lives in Winnipeg and of the good ole days as the long Canadian prairie summer days stretched into the night.

 

 

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Pool fun at the Family Party

 

 

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Connection with Ned, Linda & Ryan

 

 

While in Winnipeg a powerful opportunity for appreciation was gifted to me in the unlikeliest of situations. I had booked an appointment with an Aesthetician who turned out to be a native of Brazil. I couldn’t help but wonder how someone from Rio de Janeiro ended up Winnipeg. She shared with me that there is a high level of corruption, crime, materialism and pollution in her country so she and her husband researched for a safe place to live and determined that Canada was the place to go. They chose Winnipeg because they didn’t want to live in a big city, as well as for the affordable standard of living. When I asked her how she managed the cold winters, she replied it was only weather, you just had to dress for it and get involved in winter activities. It was a gratifying experience to hear such a positive perspective on my home and native land.

Our next, and final destination in Canada, was Toronto, where our youngest daughter lives, as well as our very close friend, Anne Marie. Kara greeted us with a huge welcome at the airport and after big hugs hello we climbed into a taxi and talked all the way to our Airbnb rental in the heart of the city. Over the next five days we got into deep philosophical discussions on the nature of being human and shared stories of our challenges and successes. We celebrated her 22nd birthday with her boyfriend Stu, a quiet affair of home-cooked Thai red curry followed by a spirited game of Catan.

For Anne Marie’s birthday celebration, we did it up in style, taking in a musical production and indulging in a five-course meal including wine pairing. I’ll write more about our culinary and cultural adventures in my next blog. We were fortunate to squeeze in a very brief catch-up with our good friends Lyne and Eric over lunch, feeling grateful for the effort they put forth into creating and keeping up connections.

We managed to balance out the excessive eating and drinking with a couple of work-outs at the condo’s gym, as well as a breath-taking 2- hour city walk that challenged our bodies and cleared our minds. It was beyond rewarding to bask in the positive energy of our peeps. I took pride in my daughter, who is rocking it, using a variety of skills and techniques she has learned, creating a life that makes her feel happier and taking steps toward discovering her purpose.

 

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In Toronto with Kara and Anne Marie

 

Mid-June we flew from Toronto to Rome where we were meeting up with my son, Kevin, and his girlfriend Susie. It was a spectacular setting for the four of us to get to know one another more intimately and there was a peaceful flow to our interactions. We found ourselves delving into deep discussions on many an occasion, sharing our views on topics like Brexit, Global communication, environmentalism, equality, and education, to name a few. After a day of touring around Rome we would settle into what we affectionately called the opium bed in our cozy apartment, pouring glasses of red wine and sharing our thoughts and feelings about what we had experienced. Evenings found us situated in one of the plethora of restaurants nestled in our little neighborhood, eating amazing Italian food, drinking gorgeous Italian wine, and telling more stories. We celebrated Susie’s graduation from Cambridge with toasts and sentimental expressions of gratitude. I noticed the many ways my son and I are the same, how we share common values, passions, and ideas and I felt full of bliss for the gift our deep communion over the four days of our Roman exploration.

 

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Me & Mister with Kevin and Susie at Eitch Hotel, Rome

 

Our Ramadan adventure concluded with grandeur as we boarded the Celebrity Reflection Cruise ship destined for an eleven day tour of the Western Mediterranean. After the abundant connection we shared with family and friends we were ready to immerse ourselves in reconnecting with one another. But before I share the magic of that experience, I want to share another unexpected opportunity that manifested.

I never imagined that I would be so impacted by one of the service providers on our cruise, but I was. Paulino, our stateroom attendant, was a constant beam of light and positivity every single day aboard the ship. He was always smiling, and his smile was huge, genuine, and contagious. The first day Paulino welcomed us, shaking our hands enthusiastically in greeting. He went above and beyond his duties, even attempting to repair Mister’s broken-down shaver. He spotted a butterfly on our balcony and informed us with delight that it was a sign of good luck. Paulino took attention to every detail for our comfort and kept our room meticulously clean. The day I dressed up in my red ball gown he saw us as we left our cabin and broke out in singing Lady in Red. He shared lovingly about his family back home without complaint of the hardship of being away, only gratitude for his opportunity to provide for them. On our last night we saw him and bid him farewell and told him how amazing our cruise experience had been and he said thank you but he was merely a cleaner. I assured him with frank honesty that he was so much more than that. I told him how much we appreciated his infectious, positive energy and the outstanding job he did of taking care of us. Tears formed in the corner of his eyes as he took both of our hands in his and thanked us.

 

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Elegant Chic @ Murano Restaurant on Celebrity Reflection

 

I said that my experience of the cruise ship with Mister was magical, and that was no exaggeration. I found myself time and time again feeling like Cinderella, over-joyed, over-the-top and over-the-moon. Every day we took time to express our thanks for the experience and our appreciation of one another. We fell into flow right away, engaging in deep, meaningful conversations, dreaming and imagining our lives together. We had the ability to share openly when we experienced sticky feelings and not take it personally or with judgment. We shifted gears calmly when things didn’t go according to plan. From holding hands as we walked along the decks to kissing as the sun set, we engaged in the art of intimacy, loving and accepting one another for who we are. One day as we sat contently on our balcony over-looking the beautiful blue sea Mister looked over at me and said, “Whether we are here on this ship, in Canada with family, in Rome or in Riyadh, it’s all beautiful because we are together.” I guess that pretty much sums it all up.

 

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Me & Mister in Monte Carlo

 

So yeah, I’m feeling connected, celebrating life and sharing stories with family and friends.