May 15th 1982

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1
The “Alma de Libertad”

Up early + immediately busy – today we were away from Colon – for good we hoped, + off to Taboga.  Showers first, then coffee + toast aboard Crusader, then packing, + a final load of washing, all at a furious pace so that we wouldn’t miss the 9.50 train to Panama.  To the last, Dave trotted out the same clichés, about how sorry he was that it hadn’t all worked out, but that he wasn’t going to battle all the way across the Pacific etc etc.  Poor sad man.  Goodbye, kiss kiss, + a near trot to the station.  Needn’t have bothered – we’d forgotten it was Saturday, with a different schedule.  So we sat around for an hour, drinking milk, reading the paper.  Then our last transcontinental train journey, getting off at Balboa, + walking, heavily-laden to Pier 18, finding it, after one false start, with the kind assistance of a local lady.  We knew we’d missed the 12 o’clock ferry, so after checking when the next one was (5), + having a glass of milk in the café, we decided to while away the afternoon in the theatre.  We’d noticed Balboa High School was putting on a matinee of Godspell, so we trudged back there.  It was pricier than we’d imagined – 3 bucks cada uno – + I’ll admit I didn’t have high hopes for the quality of the thing, but really, in virtually every respect, it was absolutely stunning.  The singing, the dancing, the acrobatics, the set, all the technical stuff, was all of the highest quality.  Jesus lacked a little charisma, + Val didn’t like the script, but otherwise…  And one moment, at the very end, when the stage had just emptied, + suddenly Jesus came running back on, was as good a moment of theatre as I’ve ever seen.  Anyway.

Off to the ferry, which we caught in good time, + were met at the other end by Alma + Mike, a friend, who took us around to the house of a friend of theirs, Rene, who cooked us a splendid meal + plied us with drink.  Unfortunately, Jack drank too much + passed out before the meal.  Mike rowed us back, + we settled in to our new home.  A good start.

Which brings to an end our relationship with Dave and Monika, at least for the time being. As has been clear from this diary, we found him a difficult man to get along with, and in the end it was probably as well that we did not set out into the Pacific with his and Monika (and the cats!), as one felt that sooner or later either the boat or Dave would blow up. However, I also feel that I allowed my emotions to run away with me, and that often I was too harsh in my criticism. They treated us astonishingly well, more or less as surrogate children, with both the generosity, and the control, that that relationship implies.

We did stay in touch with them, and visited them in… 87 maybe? Their Pacific adventure had come to a close shortly after we left, and they were back in the States, living in their property in Indiana. Dave was much the same as ever, taking us out into his backyard for some shooting practice, sending us off down river in a canoe… but generally being a good host. His latest enthusiasm was the MIA, looking in SE Asia for US servicemen missing in action, aqnd he had already visited as part of this. Have to say, it all sounded a bit Boys Own adventure to me, but then, that was pretty much how Dave saw his life.

For many years, we exchanged Christmas cards, but he died some ten years ago – we received a nice letter from their son, informing us of this.

But for us, a new vessel, a new purpose… new hope!

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