Editor's Musings

On Monday, February 10th, we flew to Rio Hato, Cocle (there are 9 provinces in Panama) about 75 kilometres west and south of Panama City.

My daughter-in-law had suggested that the three grandchildren Porter 7, Mazie 10 and Sophie 12, the three grandparents (Cora Ware, Margaret Ann and yours truly) plus Mom (Amy) and Dad (Chris) go on a holiday...but not tell the kids until we got there!.

She had been to this Playa Blanca resort near Rio Hato a couple of years back. There were three pools, five water slides, a long sandy beach and more. It was a safe place for the kids to enjoy themselves and have a good time.

Amy went online with Sunwing and purchased for her family. I called Larry Atkinson of Atkinson Travel over in Waverley and for $1250 each, my sweetie and me were signed up for flight, room, refreshments and food at the same all-inclusive resort.

Our flight was at 11 am and since it was suggested we be there three hours before take-off, we left here around 6 am, picked up the other Gramma, dealt with the stop and go traffic on Hwy 400 and by shortly after 8 am, we were walking into the terminal.

Standing there were three very surprised grandchildren who thought their mom and dad were taking them out to a very special breakfast.

I tried convincing the 7 year-old hockey player that we were going to Montreal to see the Leafs play Montreal but he disagreed as somehow, he had discovered that for some reason, his bathing suit had been packed.

After we checked in, Sophie wandered over to the travel board, saw that our flight was destined to Rio Hato, did a google search, figured out where we were going and the three kids were jumping up and down with glee.

Although you go to Terminal 3 to catch your Sunwing plane, you are loaded onto a shuttle, taken over to the other side of the airport where all their aeroplanes are.

The 11 o’clock flight arrived in Rio Hato almost 5 and a half hours later. The airport handles just 12 flights a week, most from Sunwing and a few thru Air Transit. A plane comes in, unloads on the runway, refuels, changes the baggage, loads with returning tourists and flies back to Toronto an hour later.

The Playa Blanca resort we stayed at is about 10 minutes away. Some people went to a choice of two or three other holiday spots near bye.

To get into our area, there was a booth and occupant to okay our entrance so it was almost like a gated community.

Jorge, our coordinator who spoke Spanish (Panama’s language), French, English (fluently) and  possibly other dialects directed us on the resorts rules and availabilities so it was easy to adapt.

The lunch room held about 250 people so the maybe 500 people there could not attack the food all at once. The choice was infinitesimal, like all the ways from hotdogs  or hamburgers and fries to foods that I had never tried and some that I’ll never try again. There was no reason to walk away hungry.

There was an arcade, a sports bar, nightlife, a store, entertainment and more but many just lazed around the pools, laying in the sun trying to (not) get a burn.

About a five minute $6 taxi ride away, there was a LARGE Super 99 which sold everything from groceries, booze, hardware and more. Beside it was our equivalent to a dollar store and near bye a clothing store.

Our large room had a king sized bed, chesterfield, lots of closet space, a fridge that magically offered us pop, beer and cold water everyday, TV, small balcony overlooking one of the pools, an air conditioner and a clean washroom.

We went to the archery range, rode horses, rented a four seater side by side (Kawasaki Mule 1000 cc) and two 300 cc ATVs. We headed towards the centre of the country, bathed in a pond below a waterfalls, went to a little animal farm, and drove residential areas where many of the workers at the resort live and after dark and with the assistance of flashlights, chased crabs (crustaceans which live in all the world’s oceans, in fresh water and on land), fed and tried to pet the feral dogs, enjoyed the water slides, swam and got sunburned.

Panama’s currency is the American dollar.

MA and I went on a tour ($110 US each) of Panama City a population of two million. The total population of Panama is four million. We did a lot of walking on one way narrow streets with sidewalks that you could barely meet someone on. The city is in a building boom but there is a lot of history prior to the opening of the canal in 1913. The canal was started by the French who went bankrupted trying to build it - some research might suggest that the United States was not impressed and offered little help back then - then the US took it over and operated it - and possibly controlled/ruled Panama - until the year 2000. 25.000 people died building it mostly from malaria and other tropical diseases.

The canal is 51 miles (82 km) from ocean to ocean (Pacific and Atlantic). If you want to take your large container or tourist liner from one side to the other, the fee is around $750,000. Just to take a little sailboat thru runs upwards to $1000. The cheapest fee ever was 36 cents charged to a guy names Haliburton who swam through it. Once you reach the canal, your wait time is likely at least 24 hours. Trained pilots take over your boat and have total control from one end to the other.

We went into the three story museum and viewed the building and (pretend) operational systems and stood on the deck to watch two of the locks open and close to allow a huge tanker and three sailboats thru.

In Panama, the minimum pay is around $5-600 per month like $3 per hour but some nice houses could be purchased in our area for around $100,000. I noticed someone had 7 hectares of land, looked like a field with many trees around it, for sale for $5500.

We were there is the dry season January to March (the driest month). The rainy season runs from April to December with November the wettest.

They were working on building a new road. Come the rainy season, because of the land type, not much roadwork can be done so they were working 24 hours a day.

To be in contact with Canada thru data, most of us had to pay $12 per 24 hour period thru our providers here. There was Wi-Fi intermittently and in the lobby. After being there a few days, we discovered you could have purchased a Panamanian SIM card for $5 a week or $15 for the whole month.

We got home after midnight Monday the 17th and had done very little with regards to the newspaper so that is why this paper came out one day late.


Maybe you noticed (one avid reader sent me an email) that there was not a spelling mistake in my last musings...but there was a grammar mistake to which I know better. It was about the differences in usage and meaning of advise and advise.

Advice is a noun. It is a suggestion or recommendation.

His advice was sound and everyone listened to him.

I am seeking your advice because you are more experienced in such matters.

Take my advice and quit your day job to focus on your start up business.

Advise is a verb. It means “to give advice” and therefore refers to the act of giving advice.

I advise you to resign from your position.

My lawyer has advised me to settle this matter out of court.


Someone suggested I might not be on the side of the teacher’s in their ramped up actions to save our children’s educations.

I must admit that it is hard to feel sorry for a profession that averages around $90,000 a year salary, a profession that offers nigh unto three months of vacation the day you start and you only work from 8:45 to 3:30 with lunch periods and prep time offered as well.

But I won’t deny the teachers do need some help and no one has been listening.

One person told me about the allotment the boards/schools set for each course. Sometimes, there was more money than needed in one area and more needed in other areas, but it could not be spent there. When new books cost $40 each (someone is ripping off the education system) and there is not enough money allotted, students now had to either share books, do without or the teacher had to supply. When one teacher went to the principal to put forth the problem, she was told that that was the allotment so make it work. The principal’s job should have been to inform that department at the Board of Education office who then should have told the Superintendent who then went to the Ministry of Education, then to the Minister and then to the Premier - and somewhere in there they have a union to represent the teachers and one wonders if they are doing anything more than making noises when contracts come due just to show the workers that they are important.

So for the union to suggest the teachers should walk out of the classrooms to let the taxpayers know there is a problem...yes there is a problem but there have been a lot of failures between the teachers and the taxpayers who finance them.

Instead of the 76 bloated school board offices with hordes of overpaid employees that appear to not be accountable to you and me, (What do they do?) with people sitting in each board doing the exact same thing that someone in another board is doing - why don’t they talk/listen to the teachers who live in the real world trying to institute the things and ideas that originate behind closed doors.

The teachers are not the problem. The overabundance of advisors or whatever they are - is the problem.

Charles, how did we get through the little red school house days? Oh yea! Our parents ran the schools until 1967.